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In a move to beef up demand for its product, Chinese solar wafer manufacturer LDK Solar announced today it has acquired a 70 percent stake valued at $33 million in solar project developer Solar Power Inc. (SPI).
The deal should create demand for LDK’s modules by offering up the California-based SPI’s portfolio of projects, which include utility-scale power plants. It has also developed commercial-scale distributed generation projects at a Costco building and the Staples Center in Los Angeles and also manufactures solar modules and tracking systems. SPI gains in the deal by getting a strengthened balance sheet; it will also sell to LDK some manufacturing equipment and hand over control of its former module manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China.
LDK’s shares rose this week on news it raised $240 million by selling a minority stake in its polysilicon unit to investors, and the company also reported strong order books for 2011. It has a financial support from the government via credit lines at state-run banks despite having shaky financials, according to the Motley Fool.
The deal exemplifies two trends in the solar market right now. Firstly, it shows the move among manufacturers to buy up projects to ensure demand for its products. One major deal of that vein happened last fall when panel maker Sharp purchased for $305 million solar project developer Recurrent Energy. Top global panel manufacturers SunPower and First Solar have also purchased and developed their own solar projects around the world to lock in continued demand for their products and services. In the case of a recent SunPower deal, it designed and built a solar park in Italy then sold it to a new group of owners, but will continue to supply maintenance and operations.
Secondly, the deal showcases another example of cross-pollination between Chinese and U.S. solar companies. While Chinese manufacturers have pushed prices down thanks to government subsidies — to the dismay of some U.S. solar contenders — they have also teamed with American companies for cutting-edge components. For example, Innovalight sells its efficiency-boosting solar panel ink to Chinese manufacturers like JinkoSolar. Startup Azuray has inked deals to provide its solar harvest optimization technology to Chinese solar panel and parts manufacturers Suntech and Renhe.
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