SolarWorld Americas is in discussions with several interested parties regarding its future sale.
The company has been put up for sale by insolvency administrators at its former German parent company. Speaking to PV Tech, CEO Jürgen Stein said the company has no timeline or deadlines to find a buyer, which he claims is decoupled from the Section 201 case.
“SolarWorld Americas is in a merger and acquisition process. Macquarie is driving that process on behalf of the secured lenders and the SolarWorld AG insolvency trustee. Interested parties are already in contact with the Macquarie Group and now we have to look at that interest, the business plans behind those offers and then we have to come to a decision.
“That decision will be made by the secured lenders, the insolvency trustee plus the SolarWorld Americas management team,” said Stein adding that it was important to find a “good solution for the company and the workforce so we can ramp back to 100%”.
Importantly, Stein also stressed that the Section 201 case will not dictate the timeline of the search for the best buyer.
“The 201 [case] is an important piece of the discussion but the interested parties are interested in more than just the 201. They see SolarWorld Americas as a company with 42 years’ experience in the market, with a strong brand, dedicated to quality and which has been an innovator. They see the value to continue that without the 201, but yes, it is important because it perhaps has an impact on the business case.”
Stein was also able to answer some questions on how SolarWorld Americas will function from a technical perspective after a divorce from its parent with the strategy of pursuing P-type mono to continue.
“We were focusing on mono early and since 2012 were the first to start with P-type mono PERC and that has been shown to be a good decision. We're not finished with P-type yet, we can do better, we can increase the power and do more with bifacial. We're 100% dedicated to that technology but we will always look left and right to see what is next but for the next few years p-type perc is the correct choice,” he said.
With an R&D history that is intrinsically linked to the German firm, unpicking past and future developments of products with a shared history could prove complex, however Stein has a two-fold plan.
“We always had our own cost on R&D. We have the option right now to enter a service level agreement with the German R&D centre as this is a separate GmbH to the production centre in Germany. We can enter that and continue, which would give us some cost savings to share with the other company. We're also looking here in the US for the right partners at the universities because we think this is also important for us to build our R&D capabilities further in the US. Not only the manufacturing sector but also to build up the R&D further in the US. It gives us more flexibility to select the partners that we want to work with in different sectors.”
Rebuilding a 'broken chain'
Asked if the company had more scrutiny on the origin of its bill of materials to ensure it was truly Made in America, Stein said the trade measures would hopefully make this more possible in the future.
“We want to buy the material as much as possible from the US but that is unfortunately not always possible. We have seen that out of the more than 30 companies that have had to step out, some of our suppliers are among them and have had to discontinue their operations in the US. This buys into what we say, we need the whole value chain, it’s not just about the modules and cells. We also need our suppliers. That’s the holistic view on the industry, we need the R&D, the suppliers, the manufacturers and we need the downstream,” said Stein.
“There are many breaks [in the value chain] at the moment. The US has the silicon, but then on the ingot and wafering there is a gap and we don't get much volume in the US. Last week Panasonic discontinued on ingoting in Oregon, also the ribbon supplier closed previously. There are many breaks but we should try to close these and build up the entire value chain. When we have a choice we buy from the US.”
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