Hanwha SolarOne CEO Hong retires

Ki-Joon Hong, who has held top positions at Hanwha SolarOne since the Chinese PV manufacturer (then known as Solarfun) was acquired by Korea’s Hanwha Group in 2010, has retired with immediate effect.

No reason was given for the departure of the 64-year-old Hong. The company says a replacement will be announced within two weeks.

Hong, long a senior figure within the Hanwha Group, including a stint as chief executive of Hanwha Chemical Corporation, was initially made SolarOne’s chairman after Hanwha's buy-in.

However, in 2011 he was elevated to the role of chief executive, replacing Peter Xie.

Hong saw Jiangsu-based SolarOne through the most wrenching downturn in the history of the PV industry, and he leaves at the beginning of a major rebound, which is due in no small part to the booming Chinese market.

The challenges for SolarOne during Hong's tenure have been formidable.

The company, the world's eighth largest module suppplier according to NPD Solarbuzz, lost 3.36bn yuan ($540m) over the last three years, and unlike several of its Chinese rivals it  did not return to profitability last year, due to a heavy inventory write-down.

Still, the groundwork has been laid for what many believe could become one of the world’s most successful PV companies.

In 2012 the Hanwha Group acquired Germany’s Q Cells, which has subsequently become one of SolarOne’s largest customers, and SolarOne has made a successful push into the Japanese market.

It has also aggressively expanded its downstream footprint in China, sketching out a number of strategic co-operations in the works for utility-scale development, and recently signing a deal to develop and own 100MW of distributed PV capacity in Wuxi.