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For only $118 million, you could own a major Chinese solar company

AP Photo
Not for sale.
By Todd Woody
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Suntech belatedly released its 2012 earnings today, illustrating why last year’s performance foretold the Chinese solar giant’s present troubles.  (If you haven’t been following the Suntech saga, here’s the story so far.)

Revenue plunged 48% last year, to $1.6 billion, while gross margins fell 1.4% on shipments of 1,800 megawatts of solar panels. Fourth quarter revenues were $358 million, an 8% decline over the previous quarter, though the company eked out gross margins of 0.4%.

Looking for more data? Good luck with that. Suntech, the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer until last year, hasn’t filed a full earnings report with the US Securities and Exchange Commission since April 2012. Today the company said it would need more time to file its next full year report due to accounting complications surrounding a scandal involving one of its European investments, Global Solar Fund.

That debacle, which left Suntech on the hook for €560 million ($734 million), led to the company’s default in March. That was too much for Chinese banks that hold a big chunk of Suntech’s $2 billion in debt, and in April, they forced the company’s China operations into bankruptcy. Suntech, which is registered in the Cayman Islands, subsequently obtained court protection from creditors for its European subsidiary while it restructures.

Today’s report hardly reassured investors, who sent the company’s American Depository Shares down 5% this morning, to 65 cents. Suntech currently has a market capitalization of just $118 million.

Suntech’s creditors will get a look on just how bad the situation is on May 22, when a court-appointed administrator for Wuxi Suntech, the company’s Chinese subsidiary, holds a meeting to “present and discuss potential solutions,” the company said.

The company continues to make and ship solar panels, though on April 29 it canceled $1.3 billion in contracts for polysilicon, the chief ingredient in photovoltaic cells.

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