• Solar-panel maker may seek settlement with plaintiff Hemlock
  • Legal battle may drag out another 4 years in U.S. courts

Solarworld AG, a German solar-panel maker, shrugged off a U.S. court ruling in a case linked to alleged silicon supply violations as the legal setback sent its shares plummeting.

Solarworld’s stock fell as much as 54 percent on Monday after reports that a U.S. judge in Michigan last week blocked a key line of defense in a dispute with polysilicon supplier Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. Bonn-based Solarworld’s Chairman Frank Asbeck said the court snag was a technical reversal with no consequence for the company.

“It’s not a final ruling,” Asbeck said in a phone interview. “The court’s action affects just one technical aspect of the lawsuit in five or six that have a bearing and it has no consequences for Solarworld.” The company said in a statement it may seek a settlement with Hemlock that would facilitate deliveries, reaching an agreement which “Solarworld has successfully completed with all its silicon suppliers.”

Solarworld’s legal fight with Hemlock date to 2013, when the joint venture of Dow Corning Corp. and other companies sued its U.S. unit Deutsche Solar for breach of contract to buy $83 million in material used to make solar cells. Asbeck said the lawsuit may drag on another four years before a potential settlement can be reached. Jarrod Erpelding, Hemlock spokesman, declined immediate comment.

Deutsche Solar sought price and quantity concessions before halting purchases, Hemlock said in its complaint. The court on Oct. 28 affirmed its earlier rejection of the unit’s defense that the supply agreements are illegal under European Union antitrust laws, allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

Led by Asbeck, Solarworld has shown tenacity weathering a plunge in module prices triggered by competition from China. The company said in June that first-half sales jumped 40 percent on new business in the U.S., underlining the significance of non-European markets as growth in Europe stagnates amid tapering subsidies.

The company, which will report third-quarter results on Nov. 13, said in June its expects to ship modules exceeding 1,000 megawatts this year.

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