Hanergy Eyes Home Solar to Move Past $19 Billion Collapse

Updated on
  • Dealership model being used to sell home solar systems
  • Almost a year has lapsed since Hanergy’s shares were suspended

Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd. is developing new products and sales channels as the solar-equipment maker tries to distance itself from a share suspension and investigation by Hong Kong’s stock market regulator that are nearing the 12-month mark.

Almost a year has passed since Hanergy’s Hong Kong-listed shares were suspended on May 20 after about $19 billion was gouged off the company’s market value in one day. The collapse capped a tumultuous ride for Hanergy that made the solar power group a symbol of the froth in Chinese stock markets and turned its chairman, Li Hejun, into a celebrity.

QuickTake Solar Energy

The company is pressing ahead with efforts to sell solar power systems for residential use through a dealership model similar to that used by automobile makers and has signed agreements with more than 1,300 dealers since 2015, Hanergy’s parent, Hanergy Holding Group Ltd., said in an e-mail. Hanergy Holding also plans to hold a news conference on June 5 to unveil a solar-powered car.

"Using dealerships for solar system sales is rare in China," said Wang Xiaoting, a Hong Kong-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "Silicon-based panel makers usually sell products to big customers directly as they are predictable."

Since Hanergy’s shares were suspended, several existing or potential customers have expressed an intention to reduce, stop or delay cooperation, Hanergy Holding said in the e-mail. At the same time, Hanergy has received 7,100 orders through its dealer network in China as of the end of March, it said.

Residential comprises a small portion of the photovoltaic power market in China, where land is state-owned and single-family houses are still relatively rare. The major market for the kind of systems Hanergy is now promoting through dealers is in rural areas where rooftops are in more abundance and where property is individually held.

Rooftop Market

Hanergy Thin Film is also targeting commercial use of solar systems by big industrial and commercial customers -- including those combined with agriculture -- and expects to generate "considerable income" from systems to be sold for agriculture in 2016, the parent said.

Since March 18, the company has targeted the rooftop market through a campaign called "Golden Rooftop Action," Hanergy Holding said. The company is also continuing to push for a wider adoption of solar cells on a range of products from furniture to bags and umbrellas as part of an effort long spearheaded by Li.

Meanwhile, Hanergy Thin Film has been communicating with Hong Kong’s securities regulator, though the company hasn’t been told when the investigation will be concluded or when the shares can resume trading, the parent said. The regulator didn’t answer two calls to its press office and no reply was received to an e-mail seeking comment.

Hanergy Holding said in the e-mail that it secured a 636 million yuan ($97 million) loan last year from China Development Bank Corp. to fund construction of a plant that will produce 600 megawatts of solar cells a year in Zibo in China’s eastern province of Shandong.

The parent will accelerate the pace of building production lines using copper, indium, gallium and selenide or gallium arsenide, it said. Its production line based on technology acquired from MiaSole in 2013 has started trial operations in Heyuan in China’s southern province of Guangdong, the company added.

Even before the share collapse, some investors and analysts had questioned a business model at Hanergy that relied mainly on sales of solar production equipment to the parent. About 61 percent of the revenue for the listed unit came from Beijing-based Hanergy Holding and its affiliates in 2014.

Earlier this year, Hanergy Thin Film reported its first annual loss since 2009 as revenue plunged and auditors expressed doubts about its ability to stay in business.

— With assistance by Feifei Shen

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