Hanergy's Li Breaks Silence With Call for China to Fund Solar

  • Fund urged to provide support for thin-film power technologies
  • Hanergy expects significant loss in 2015 amid suspension

Li Hejun, the man at the center of last year’s rise and fall of Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd., broke months of silence this week, urging China to establish an investment fund to back the solar technology on which he’s staked his reputation and the future of his company.

Li’s proposal is contained in a 23-page document submitted to a political advisory body ahead of annual legislative meetings to be held starting Saturday in Beijing. It was released by Hanergy without further comment after a request from Bloomberg. It calls for a fund to provide capital for thin-film solar power technologies and should encourage greater domestic production of key equipment in the field, Li wrote.

Li, the chairman of the Hanergy Holding Group Ltd. and a self-professed solar visionary, was a star at last year’s legislative meeting at a time when his company’s stock was riding high.

But little has been seen of Li lately. The chairman’s most prominent appearance was in October, when he appeared on national television alongside Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in what analysts said at the time appeared to be a signal of possible state support for the troubled solar company.

At one point last year, the market value of Hong Kong-listed Hanergy Thin Film was bigger than those of Sony Corp. and Twitter Inc., making it the most valuable renewable energy company in the world. Trading in Hanergy was halted on May 20, and the company’s ties with its Beijing-based parent remain under investigation by Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission.

According to regulatory filings made public at the end of last year, Li agreed to sell a 6 percent stake in Hanergy Thin Film at a 95 percent discount to where they last traded. The 0.18 yuan price means the chairman’s holding in Hanergy Thin Film has shrunk from HK$119.7 billion ($15.4 billion) when trading was halted to just HK$6.03 billion.

Hanergy last week said revenue has plummeted and it expects to report a “significant” loss for 2015 because its reputation was shattered by the suspension, leading to lower orders. Two calls to Hanergy’s public relation department went unanswered.

Despite his company’s troubles, Li is holding firm in his conviction that thin-film solar technology has a bright future, writing in the proposal to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference that it is becoming a prominent driving force for the economy and employment.

Thin-film panels require less semiconductor material than the polysilicon panels that dominate the market and can generate more power under low-light conditions and in hotter climates. However, they are unproven in large-scale commercial production, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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