SolarWorld says China competition unfair

FRANKFURT Wed Sep 21, 2011 8:45am EDT

The company sign of Solarworld AG is pictured at their headquarters in Bonn in this November 19, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

The company sign of Solarworld AG is pictured at their headquarters in Bonn in this November 19, 2008 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Ina Fassbender

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Frank Asbeck, chief executive of Germany's No.2 solar company SolarWorld, has criticized Chinese rivals for eating into the market share of European peers, potentially driving them out of business.

"There is no fair competition in our industry. The Chinese have started an industry war," he told German magazine Capital, according to an excerpt of an interview made available ahead of its publication on Thursday.

"In 2011 alone, central government and provinces have given credit guarantees of more than 21 billion euros ($29 billion) to solar companies, at interest rates of less than 2 percent."

Criticism of China's efforts to boost its solar sector are not new.

The U.S.-based United Steelworkers union (USW) in 2010 blamed China's aid to its solar industry for creating a supply glut that drove down panel prices 40 percent in 2009 and pushed American competitors out of the market.

In the past China has granted lavish credit lines to companies such as Suntech, Yingli and JA Solar via the China Development Bank (CDB).

The size and conditions of such loans has led to outrage among European rivals, which have struggled to secure credit lines from investors disheartened by the competition from Asia.

This has driven some companies, most prominently Germany's Conergy -- once Europe's largest solar company -- into the arms of hedge funds.

"You can calculate the costs of a manufacturer. And if that manufacturer tries to sell large amounts at low costs to destroy a whole industry, governments need to intervene."

($1 = 0.729 Euros)

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by David Hulmes)

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