Friday, January 14, 2011

LDK Solar to Acquire 70 Percent Interest in Solar Power Inc.

LDK Solar Co. Ltd. has agreed to acquire a 70 percent interest in Solar Power Inc. for approximately $33 million, strengthening the Roseville company’s balance sheet and providing much-needed financing.

LDK Solar is a China-based manufacturer of multicrystalline solar wafers, high purity polysilicon and photovoltaic products. Solar Power (OTCBB: SOPW) manufactures solar panels in China and installs solar-power systems in the United States.

“This investment in SPI clearly places our company among the most elite photovoltaic solar developers today,” Steve Kircher, chairman and CEO of Solar Power, said in a news release. “We are honored that LDK Solar has placed value in our legacy projects and in our pipeline.

The deal will speed up development of Solar Power’s project pipeline, which primarily consists of utility-scale power plants and commercial and industrial distributed generation systems, according to the companies. Projects that had been in the works include a 16-megawatt solar farm in north Sacramento County.

LDK Solar also will buy certain components of Solar Power’s manufacturing equipment and assume total manufacturing control of the company’s module manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China. The move will allow Solar Power to develop and build large- and utility-scale solar projects in the U.S.

“One of the things that’s challenging to everybody today is financing. Liquidity is still an issue,” Solar Power spokesman Mike Anderson said. “This changes that for us. It makes it much easier to get projects financed.”

Solar Power will now be able to pursue a number of projects in its pipeline, “including those on the local agenda,” Anderson said.

Anderson added that while LDK Solar will take over the manufacturing operation, the company will continue to manufacture “our SPI branded products,” including Solar Power’s modules, which have been highly rated by the California Energy Commission for performance and efficiency.

LDK has more than 20,000 employees worldwide. Solar Power has 63 employees in the U.S. and China.

“We are very pleased with this new strategic relationship,” Xiaofeng Peng, chairman and chief executive officer of LDK Solar, said in a news release. “We have known the SPI team for several years have been very impressed with the quality of their work and the caliber of the customers they serve. We look forward to working closely with the team that is responsible for outstanding solar projects such as the Staples Center and the Aerojet solar farm.”

A 2.4 megawatt expansion of an existing solar system at Aerojet in Rancho Cordova was completed in June, bringing the project’s total capacity to 6 megawatts. The 40-acre array is the largest single-site industrial photovoltaic facility in the state, according to the company.

Peng added that the deal gives the two companies the opportunity to “jointly explore opening manufacturing operations in the U.S.”

LDK Solar’s headquarters and manufacturing facilities are in Xinyu City, Jiangxi Province in China.

Solar Power already had announced plans to renovate a 100,000-square-foot building at McClellan Business Park for use as a solar panel manufacturing plant. Those plans were put on hold due to a lack of financing.

The company last year nabbed $24.7 million in Recovery Zone Facility Bonds tied to the federal stimulus package that it planned to use in part to renovate the McClellan building, but the nation’s weak financial markets made it difficult to sell the bonds to investors.

While the two companies want to jointly open a manufacturing plant in the U.S., it’s not clear whether it would be cited at McClellan.

“If we open a manufacturing facility I don’t know where that will take place,” Anderson said. “We haven’t had formal conversations about opening a manufacturing facility in the U.S. yet.”

LDK Solar has an office in Sunnyvale. Anderson said Solar Power will retain its headquarters in Roseville.

Shares of Solar Power Inc. jumped 30 percent, or 11 cents, to 48 cents in trading Thursday.


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