Bankruptcy for Martifer Solar USA

Portugal’s Martifer Solar has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for its US subsidiary, claiming that the unit’s problem is not the volume of its debts but rather their repayment schedule.

Martifer Solar, among the most globally active providers of EPC and O&M work to the PV industry, says that despite the move it continues to view the American market as “strategic”.

Other Martifer Solar subsidiaries are not affected.

The decision to file for bankruptcy protection was reached following “failed negotiations” with an unnamed creditor.

Martifer Solar USA “has sufficient assets to meet its obligations to third parties” but needs to adjust its repayment schedule, the company explains.

Chapter 11, which buys companies temporary protection from their creditors while they reorganise their businesses, was “the most effective procedure to ensure the ordinary course of [Martifer Solar’s] activity” in the US, the company says.

Ironically, solar energy represents the biggest growth story within the Martifer Group at present, and the US is one of the world’s largest and most steadily growing PV markets.

Martifer Solar, which has installed nearly 500MW of PV globally and runs a significant third-party O&M business, accounted for half of the Martifer Group's €464.3m ($631m) of revenues during the first nine months of 2013.

Martifer's Solar division was also profitable during the period, in contrast to the group’s large but loss-making Metallic Construction unit, which manufactures things such as hotel ships and the structural steelwork going into the stadia being built for Brazil’s upcoming World Cup. Martifer also has a much smaller wind-energy unit.

Martifer Solar entered the US market several years ago with a bang, unveiling a blockbuster 113MW suite of power-purchase agreements with Southern California Edison in 2010.

In 2012 it issued a press statement flagging up its success in the US, with chief executive Henrique Rodrigues noting that the company’s “international experience and consolidated financial strength [had been] important differentiation factors” in that market.

Since then, however, big announcements out of the US have been thin on the ground, even as Martifer Solar has continued to notch up important orders in a broad range of countries, including key emerging markets like India and Mexico.

The US added 4.2GW of new PV capacity in 2013, overtaking Germany’s as the world’s largest non-Asian solar market, according to NPD Solarbuzz.

That performance compares to the 3.3GW the US added in 2012.