SolarWorld Americas is up for sale

It’s been a busy week for the leadership of SolarWorld Industries Americas. On Tuesday the company testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on behalf of the Section 201 petition for trade relief which it joined, but yesterday in Germany something bigger set in motion.

SolarWorld Industries Americas Inc. was a subsidiary of SolarWorld AG, which filed for insolvency and has been allowed to re-emerge under a new name, taking most of its former German facilities and subsidiaries with it. However, the new SolarWorld Industries GmbH does not include the company which formerly produced half of the output branded SolarWorld: SolarWorld Industries Americas.

Which means that SolarWorld Industries Americas is in something of a limbo. Technically the U.S. company is solvent, but as a direct subsidiary of SolarWorld AG, it is now under the jurisdiction of the insolvency administrator, who is tasked with raising money for creditors.

Insolvency administrator Horst Piepenburg has stated that he is looking for a party to buy up the insolvent estate’s stake in SolarWorld Industries Americas, which owns and operates the biggest operational crystalline silicon solar factory in the Western Hemisphere. This production facility in Oregon hosts a nameplate capacity of 500 MW of cells and modules.

The factory is likely only running at partial production, given that SolarWorld eliminated another 360 jobs there in its most recent known layoff this summer, to bring it down from 800 to only 300 employees.

Another large question is whether the Oregon plant will get wrapped up in the nearly $800 million that the former SolarWorld AG owes to Hemlock Semiconductor. Through forming a new company Frank Asbeck has rid himself of this debt, which is now the responsibility of the insolvent estate.

This does not guarantee that Hemlock will get paid. Last Friday a district court in Bonn excluded Hemlock from a creditor’s meeting, and spokesperson for the insolvency administrator has told pv magazine that he will examine a recent appeals court ruling confirming the damages.

SolarWorld Industries Americas has stated that it is in an “open-ended” M&A process. “We are undergoing an M&A process to determine the right solution – whatever that may be – for SolarWorld Americas,” SolarWorld Industries Americas Head of Corporate Communication Ben Santarris told pv magazine.

“The process is open-ended and may – or may not – include a sale.  All options are on the table, and we will take time carefully reviewing what is best for the long-term success of the U.S. business.”

The City of Hillsboro, where the factory is located, says that the potential sale is news to them as well. However, city officials note that the City and the State of Oregon have been working to assist workers affected by the transition.

Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway has also issued a statement in support of SolarWorld’s position on the Section 201 petition, noting that the factory is important not only to Hillsboro but to the Oregon economy. “Hundreds of Oregon families are depending on us to advocate on behalf of our local employer and employees,” reads a statement by Callaway.