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China’s Hanergy to buy solar startup Miasole in fire sale

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The search for a financial suitor is coming to an end for solar thin film startup, MiaSole, which has agreed to be bought by China-based Hanergy, according to a shareholder letter.

Hanergy plans to buy MiaSole for a measly $30 million, according to the letter, and also reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. While the Silicon Valley solar company has been mum about how much venture capital it’s raised since its inception in 2001, published reports have put the figure somewhere between $400 million and $500 million by the end of 2011. Earlier this year, the company raised $55 million.

MiaSole was desperate for a white knight to rescue it from oblivion. After years of research and development, the company seemed to have finally nailed its manufacturing process to making solar panels out of copper, indium gallium and selenium (CIGS) that are more efficient than many rivaling CIGS thin film companies. But it was running out of money and needed to expand its production and attract customers. CEO John Carrington joined MiaSole late last year, and he made a public appeal in December for investors and partners who could bring money and sales and marketing expertise.

Hanergy may not be a well-known company in the U.S., but it’s large renewable energy producer in China. We pointed out in this post back in June that Hanergy is a company worth watching not only because of its large hydropower and solar panel production plants in China, but also because of its involvement in installing solar energy equipment. Hanergy won a 3-year deal to install solar panels on Ikea’s stores in China. The company also has built a wind energy generation business within China.

With the purchase of MiaSole, Hanergy is knitting together a global solar thin film empire. Last week, the company completed the purchase of CIGS thin film maker Solibro from Q-Cells in Germany. Hanergy said it would increase Solibro’s production for the European market. With MiaSole’s purchase, Hanergy, of course, will have a CIGS thin film manufacturing base in the U.S.

Solar startups have been picked off one by one cheaply – or filed for bankruptcy – over the past 19 months because the global solar market has been plagued by a glut of solar panels. The fast-falling panel prices – roughly 50 percent in 2011 alone and 30 percent so far this year – have put an enormous pressure on companies to lower their prices. That pressure is particularly difficult to handle for startups, which often have higher manufacturing costs initially when they are scaling up production of their technology. And many of them indeed were trying to raise more money and make that leap to mass production when the financial market crisis hit in late 2008, followed by the oversupply of solar panels starting in 2011.

One of the remaining CIGS thin film companies from Silicon Valley, SoloPower, hopes to reverse the trend. The company inaugurated its first large factory in Portland, Ore., last week and plans to start making use of a $197 million federal loan guarantee to expand production.

11 Responses to “China’s Hanergy to buy solar startup Miasole in fire sale”

  1. So the persons that had paid for their shares of Miasole stock , have got paper work for them to sign off on the sale…..did it real mean anything. I did not buy my shares, but a friend of mine did and got paper work asking for his approval of the sale since he had paid for his shares. I don’t get it…according to all information the company is sold and Mr. Cranston and others got their big commission, so why bother asking the little guys for their sign off. Are they getting some of the money they invested ? I think that is the question……………..

  2. Depressing and shocking that it didnt sell for more. It’s worth more!!! I cant help but wonder what kinds of bonuses the current executives are getting for such a low price? In the end, it’s just another sign of our failed government. Doing nothing about China dumping cells on the market for cheap. Tarriffs anyone??

  3. ahartman

    I’m reminded of what happened when GM/Magnequench sold off their Neodymium magnets technology, a critical piece of all modern motors. In about 10 years 95% of all the high-energy magnets became locked up in one country, and the prices rose 10X. Are we seeing the same thing happening again in solar?

  4. This is sad, and not a surprise. The history of leadership at that company inexcusable. We know. We worked for one of their ill-equipped leaders. Somebody should interview the PR firms that keep their integrity only to find themselves thrown to the curb as a result of refusing to lie. Honestly, I can’t understand why the VCs keep these guys around when they know better.

  5. Thanks for this in-depth reporting.
    One gets to see the evolutionary transactions on the world stage.
    Hanergy will be challenged to integrate Miasole’s sputtering technology with its other technologies, and compete against the crystalline module manufacturers.

    • I know MiaSole’s technology is different than Solibro’s, but why would Hanergy need to integrate the two? Hanergy is just snapping up assets and letting existing management to scale up those manufacturing operations. Those companies will be sources of solar panels for Hanergy the project developer.