Suntech signs MOU to build solar power plants in S.Africa

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd, China’s largest maker of photovoltaic solar panels, has signed a deal to develop solar plants in South Africa with a total capacity of up to 100 megawatts, a spokesman said on Thursday.

The non-binding memorandum of understanding had no financial terms, Rory Macpherson, Suntech’s director of investor relations, told Reuters, declining to name the South African company involved in the project.

“We’re exploring developments of solar projects with an unnamed solar firm,” Macpherson said.

Analysts say the total investment for building a 100 MW solar power plant could be between $350 million and $400 million.

Suntech did not have a timetable for the investments, Macpherson said.

“Obviously, we are committed to developing the solar market in South Africa. We will look for solar opportunities as soon as possible,” he said, adding that the total size of the photovoltaic market in South Africa could be more than $1 billion.

The signing of the MOU, which coincided with the visit by South African President Jacob Zuma to China, was one of a dozen deals involving investments in energy, power transmission and railways signed between executives of both nations.

Those deals included a 240 million euro ($303.6 million) loan agreement between South Africa’s third-largest mobile phone operator, Cell C, and China Development Bank.

Zuma has urged China to invest more in infrastructure and manufacturing in his country, as his government seeks to broaden South Africa’s economic appeal beyond mines and resources.

Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Leonora Walet; Editing by Chris Lewis