Korean Solar Acquisitions
Buying German Solar on the Cheap
Q-Cells is the biggest solar failure in Europe as the company which was the global leader in 2008 failed to pay its creditors in 2012. Q-Cells which concentrated on producing crystalline silicon solar cells could not cope with Asian competitors who drastically cut prices and costs in 2011. The company got battered in 2009 downturn as well but had managed to survive as the global solar market boomed in 2010 and 2011. However the the 80% cut in solar cell prices sounded the death knell of this solar cell company.
Q-Cells tried to avoid Bankruptcy
Q-Cells tried to postpone the inevitable:
i) By vertically integrating like other successful companies. Q-Cells even managed to succeed in the solar systems business though it solar panels failed to win much traction.
ii) The company opened a manufacturing facility in Malaysia as it tried to move production of solar cells from high cost Germany to Asia.
iii) The company also closed down and sold its poorly performing thin film operations.
iv) Appointing a restructuring specialist as its CEO.
But none of these efforts helped as the company filed bankruptcy. Now Q-Cells operations are being bought for a mere $50 million by the Korean giant Hanwha Group. Note the Hanwha group had bought Solarfun in 2009 becoming one of the biggest suppliers in the globe. However Hanwha Solar One has failed to turn around despite Hanwha management changes. Hanwha had bought Solarfun from Good Energies which also had a big shareholding in Q-Cells. This acquisition will further bolster the Korean producer’s position in the global market giving it manufacturing bases in Germany and Malaysia, besides China. Hanwha will also benefit from Q-Cell’s strong brand and solar system business in Europe.
Read about Hanwha SolarOne Solar Panel Review.
Hanwha buys Solarfun
South Korean Conglomerate Hanwha subsidiary Hanwha Chemicals has taken a controlling 49.99% stake buying 36 million shares from Solarfun at $10.72 (4.6% premium) and the complete shareholding of promoters Good Energies (controls German Q-Cells as well ) and Chairman Mr. Yonghua Lu. Solarfun is the 4th largest Chinese company which has been executing well on a vertical integration strategy. The company has 900 MW of module capacity with ~400-500 MW of wafer and cell capacity. The company has rapidly increased its 2010 marketshare and is trading at trough valuations.
Consolidation in the Solar Industry Picking up Pace
Consolidation in solar industry is nothing new. M&A activity in the Solar Industry increased due to rock bottom valuations. Deal activity increased sharply with AUO-Sunpower and TSMC-Stion being some of the partnerships. Solar Thermal Industry already saw a frenetic phase of acquisitions earlier. The industry is highly fragmented, but lower ASPs and increased competition makes more consolidation inevitable. This is a net positive for the solar industry as it will lead to increased capex and better technology.
Hanwha Chairman has got a sentence of 4 years to serve in jail after being found guilty of using company cash for personal use (all $4.5 million of it) and spending an additional $250 million to help his brother. Note Hanwha is one of the top 10 chaebols of South Korea and entered the Solar industry in a big way a few years ago. The conglomerate entered the green industry like other chaebols Samsung, Hyundai and LG prodded by the South Korean Government. But like other Korean groups, it has seen its investment in solar industry crash. Despite acquiring a head start by buying Solarfun (one of the biggest Chinese solar panel companies), the group has not managed to do much with it. Despite being plans of vertically integrating through building a polysilicon plant, the company’s solar business continues to lose money and trails badly behind others in all metrics like cost, margins, revenues etc.
Creditors of insolvent German solar company Q-Cells on Wednesday approved the takeover offer by South Korea’s Hanwha Group , a bid that was challenged earlier this week by Spain’s Isofoton, a Q-Cells spokesman said.