Shunfeng to acquire majority stake in Suniva

Shunfeng International Clean Energy, the Hong Kong-based owner of Suntech, will acquire Atlanta-based PV cell and module manufacturer Suniva and help it expand its production capacity in the US.

Shunfeng will pay $57.8m for a 63.13% stake in privately owned Suniva, through a mixture of cash and shares.

Suniva will become a non-wholly owned subsidiary of Shunfeng, although Suniva’s existing shareholders – among them Goldman Sachs, Warburg-Pincus, New Enterprise Associates, and Prelude Ventures – will all continue to own stakes.

With Shunfeng behind it, Suniva will more than double its production capacity in the US, from 150MW to 400MW, creating 300 new jobs.

The companies did not specify where the new US capacity would be added. Suniva's headquarters and flagship plant is on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, and last it opened a second US factory in Saginaw, Michigan.

The deal adds to Shunfeng’s long list of companies Suniva has acquired in recent years, from Germany’s Sunways and S.A.G. Solarstrom to China’s Suntech, which was the world’s largest module supplier until its bankruptcy.

Shunfeng cited two reasons for the Suniva acquisition.

Most importantly, it will “enable the company to reap the huge potentials of the solar market in the US”.

Compared to some of its closest Chinese rivals, Suntech faces especially steep trade tariffs in the US, the world’s second largest solar market after China. US tariffs on Chinese cells and modules were recently increased modestly.

The second reason for the acquisition is to give Shunfeng access to Suniva’s high-efficiency cell technology.

Suniva, which in 2007 was spun out of research done at the Georgia Institute of Technology, produces cells with average efficiencies higher than 19%, and in lab settings the figure runs higher than 20%.

Suniva’s modules are especially well suited for rooftops and other space-constrained areas, and its US manufacturing helps the company in going after lucrative government contracts.

The two largest US-based solar manufacturers – First Solar and SunPower – do most of their manufacturing overseas.

Suniva shrank its loss to $15.5m in 2014, down from a loss of $44.4m the year prior, according to papers filed by Shunfeng with the Hong Kong exchange.

In late July, SFCE canceled plans to invest $71m in a 723MW portfolio of wind farms in China. It ultimately scrapped the deal — which would have marked its initial foray into the wind sector — because a number of key conditions had not been met.