Solar assets of Suntech-owned fund seized

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An Italian court has ordered the seizure of further solar parks constructed by companies associated with Global Solar Fund, the PV power plant investment body in which Chinese manufacturer Suntech is majority shareholder.

The Court of Brindisi also ordered the seizure of feed-in tariff payments made to the same companies over matters relating to the “improper collection” of FiTs, Suntech revealed.

Detention orders have been served on an unspecified number of individuals from GSF subsidiaries over the allegations that they built the solar parks without the necessary environmental and planning authorisations.

A number of similar allegations were also made and seizures orderd at the end of last year over projects developed by GSF subsidiaries. Reports at the time suggested the plants had been illegally built to take advantage of state subsidies.

Although PV Tech was unable to confirm precise details of the number or whereabouts of the PV plants, Suntech said in a statement that the latest seizures took the overall number of GSF projects ordered seized by the Brindisi court to 37, amounting to 30MW. This amounts to 21% of the power capacity of solar plants held by GSF.

GSF, in which Suntech holds an 88% share, is a fund set up to invest in private companies that own or develop PV projects.              

Earlier this year Suntech said it had resolved a dispute with GSF Capital, a former partner in GSF, over allegations that the latter had defrauded the manufacturer in a €500 million bond deal. GSF Capital agreed to relinquish its shares in GSF without any admission of guilt in the fraud allegations.

But the latest development will be a further blow to Suntech, which is separately undergoing major financial restructuring after a bond default forced its Chinese subsidiary, Suntech Wuxi, into bankruptcy.

GSF had been reported to have an estimated US$800 million asset value. China Development Bank was reported to have loaned GSF of US$600 million. Suntechs’ founder and former chairman Dr. Zhengrong Shi was reported to have around a 12% personal share in GSF, which contributed to the founder being ousted.

Suntech said it was working with GSF to maintain operations while operating in a manner “compliant” with the court's ruling.

Additional reporting by Ben Willis

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