Solarworld CEO ‘Confident’ of Debt Deal Amid Talks on Bosch Unit

Solarworld AG Chief Executive Officer Frank Asbeck is confident Germany’s biggest panel maker will reach a deal on its debt with creditors, while the company is in early talks to buy part of Robert Bosch GmbH’s solar unit.

“Hopeful is not the word I want to use; I am confident that an agreement can be reached” with creditors, Asbeck said today. “The talks are very constructive and they see that Solarworld deserves and is capable of sustaining its future.”

The Bonn-based company, Europe’s “last man standing” in panel research and production, is in initial talks on buying some of Bosch’s solar unit, he said in an interview. Robert Bosch, the biggest auto-parts producer said in March that it was abandoning a near $2.6 billion foray into the solar industry.

Solarworld is among companies battling competition mainly from Chinese producers that saw solar panel prices drop by half in 2011 and another 24 percent last year. That tipped more than a dozen German businesses including Solar Millennium AG and Q-Cells SE, once the largest solar-cell maker, into bankruptcy.

Solarworld reported net debt of 805.2 million euros at the end of September. It has 150 million euros of bonds maturing in 2016 and 400 million euros of bonds due in 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company yesterday fell 27 percent to a nine-year low in Frankfurt trading after saying it sees a 2012 net loss of 520 million euros ($681 million) to 550 million euros under local accounting rules, mainly from writedowns on stakes in and loans to units and affiliates. China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co., at one time the largest panel producer, fell into insolvency days after it defaulted on a $541 million debt repayment in March.

Technology and know-how at Bosch’s solar unit, which will stop producing ingots, wafers, cells and panels early next year, should be “secured” in case a purchase fails, Asbeck said.

That may be done by transferring research to the Fraunhofer institute, he said. Germany’s solar industry has a viable future once “unfair” dumping has been curbed, he said.

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