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Martin LaMonica

A View from Martin LaMonica

One-time Solar Giant Q-Cells to be Sold Off Soon

Consolidation in solar continues as Germany’s Q-Cells reaches an agreement to be acquired by Hanwha Group.

  • August 27, 2012

Insolvent German solar manufacturer Q-Cells said it has an agreement with Hanwha Group to buy the company, a sign of the rapid consolidation moving through the solar industry.

A Q-Cells solar power plant in Germany. The company which once had a multi-billion dollar market cap is insolvent and is close to a deal to selling itself to Hanwha Group from South Korea.

Q-Cells, which was once the largest solar company, said the acquisition would be in the “medium double-digit million Euro range.” If the deal goes through, the amount will be about $63 million in cash, according to reports. At one point in 2007, Q-Cells had a multi-billion dollar market capitalization and shares near $100.

It’s the latest turn in an ongoing industry shakeout that has caused several bankruptcies which analysts expect will lead to consolidation among remaining companies.

The price of solar photovoltaic panels has dropped by about 50 percent in the past year and there’s a massive oversupply of panels in the market, creating a situation where it’s very difficult to operate profitably. Even SunTech, currently the largest supplier of solar panels, is struggling to stay afloat. (See, Once-Mighty Struggles to Survive).

South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Group has made a number of moves to expand into solar, including the purchase of SolarFun and smaller investments in Cambridge, Mass.-based startup 1366 Technologies and installer OneRoof Energy. Q-Cells has manufacturing in Malaysia and research and development in Germany.

There is another bid to buy for Q-Cells from Spanish project developer Isofoton, according to reports. The Q-Cells board will decide on which offer to accept at a meeting this week. The company filed for insolvency in April of this year.

Asian conglomerates have already invested in a number of U.S. solar and energy companies, a trend which is expected to continue as struggling smaller companies seek out a financial lifeline and access to Asian markets. 

SK Innovation bought a controlling share in Texas-based thin-film solar company HelioVolt and Taiwanese manufacturer invested in solar maker Stion. Earlier this month, Wanxiang finalized a deal to buy up to 80 percent of battery maker A123 Systems (See A123’s China Deal is the Latest Controversy.) 

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