GT Solar IPO Prices Mid-Range, Raises $500M

In one of the biggest solar IPOs since First Solar, the public offering from polysilicon solar gear maker GT Solar priced at the middle of its expected range on Thursday, raising $500 million. Merrimack, N.H.-based GT Solar priced 30.3 million shares of its common stock at $16.50 each, right in the middle of its estimated range of $15.50 to $17.50 a share.

And a mid-range pricing is pretty good, especially considering 2008 has not been too kind to solar stocks. The WilderHill Clean Energy Index is down more than 30 percent this year and the overall performance of solar companies that have gone public has been mixed. Solar installer Real Goods Solar (RSOL) went public at $10 in May and its stock is already down 40 percent.

GT Solar opened on the Nasdaq this morning at $16.50. At last check, the stock — which is trading under the ticker SOLR was changing hands for $14.91.

Still, a $500 million solar IPO could be a sign of better things to come. China’s GCL Silicon, which supplies wafers to the solar industry, filed for an even more ambitious offering this week: $863 million worth of shares to be traded on the NYSE.

GT Solar does have appeal because it’s positioned further up the solar industry food chain. It makes the equipment used to create polysilicon for solar modules. A shortage of polysilicon has been a lingering problem for solar panel makers, so GT’s equipment is likely to see strong demand.

GT is also seeing fast growth. Revenue increased fourfold to $244 million in the year through March 31; the company also swung to a net profit during that period of $36 million. That’s compared to an $18 million loss the year before.

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