The amorphous-silicon thin film solar material maker cites the usual one-liner about poor market conditions in explaining its withdrawal in its Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Trony, which already postponed its IPO once, is generally right about the market conditions, not only for solar companies, but specifically for thin-film technology developers, and more generally for greentech players.
Thin-film solar startups have been in a serious catch-up mode since the silicon prices fell dramatically last year. Silicon goes into most of the solar panels on the market today, and it once commanded hundreds of dollars per kilogram. It has hovered around $55 per kilogram in recent months. That has added a lot of pressure on thin-film technology developers, most of which are startups without the large factories to match the scales of crystalline silicon solar panel makers.
Solyndra, which makes copper-indium-gallium-selenide solar panels, withdrew its much-anticipated IPO only less than two months ago. This is a company that has announced more than $2 billion in sales contracts, has raised more than $1 billion in financing and received a $535 million federal loan guarantee to build a factory in California. Instead of an IPO, Solyndra opted to borrow more money from its existing investors, and it just replaced its founder and CEO, Chris Gronet.
China-based Trony was going to offer 15 million shares of American depositary shares at between $9 and $11 per share. Some of its shares were going to sell an additional 4.5 million shares. It had a decent story to tell, judging by the numbers in its SEC filings.
The company reported a revenue growth from RMB 26.2 million ($3.86 million) for the fiscal year ending June 20, 2007 to RMB 272.8 million ($40.24 million) for the 2008 fiscal year and RMB 541.5 million ($79.88 million) in the 2009 fiscal year. Net income rose from RMB 5.2 million ($767,131) in fiscal 2007 to RMB 85.8 million ($12.66 million) in fiscal 2008 and RMB 164.9 million ($24.34 million) in fiscal 2009, according to its SEC filing last December.
Back then, Trony said it had an annual capacity to produce 115 megawatts of solar panels at the end of August 2009, and expected to expand that to 145 megawatts by the end of last December.
Still, amorphous-silicon technology in general hasn’t emerged as a serious contender against the incumbent crystalline silicon technology yet. It hasn’t helped that one of the key players in the market, Applied Materials, decided to stop stop selling its SunFab line last month. Some of its customers have floundered. SunFilm filed for bankruptcy protection while Signet Solar declared insolvency for its German operations.
Investors aren’t only cold about thin-film solar IPOs. JinkoSolar, which makes crystalline silicon solar panels, went public on the New York Stock Exchange last month and got a lukewarm reception. The shares stared at $11 and closed at $11.01 on the first day.
Other greentech companies also haven’t fared well in their IPO attempts either. Molycorp, which controls a large deposit of rare earth elements for use in many green technologies such as electric car batteries and wind turbines, priced its IPOs below expectations last month and raised $393.9 million. Nobao Renewable Energy, a Shanghai company that builds geothermal energy systems to heat and cool buildings, gutted its march to the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month.
The only two companies that have seemed to avoid the greentech IPO pitfall have been lithium ion battery maker A123Systems, which is now trading far below its debut price, and electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, which exceeded all expectations. As we noted last month, both of those companies benefited from strong U.S. government support.
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Image courtesy of Trony Solar.