August 13, 2015 / 1:16 AM / 4 years ago

Shunfeng takes majority stake in U.S. solar manufacturer Suniva

LOS ANGELES, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd said it will take a majority stake in U.S. solar panel manufacturer Suniva to gain a foothold in the fast-growing U.S. solar market.

The deal will give the Hong Kong-based solar company 63 percent of Suniva, a privately held maker of solar cells and modules whose investors include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The U.S. solar market is expected to grow by a third this year, and by investing in U.S. manufacturing Shunfeng can avoid U.S. government tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels.

“The U.S. market is the second largest solar market in the world and should be for the forseeable future,” Suniva Chief Executive John Baumstark said in an interview. “It made abundant sense to invest in U.S. manufacturing and have local content for local markets.”

With Shunfeng’s investment, Suniva will more than double its manufacturing to 400 megawatts of solar cells and modules over the next year, according to Baumstark. The company currently manufactures about 150 MW in Georgia and Michigan.

It did not disclose the location of its new manufacturing capacity, but said the expansion will create 300 jobs. Suniva currently employs 350 people.

Suniva, which is based in Atlanta, moved all of its solar panel assembly to the United States from Asia over the last two years. By making panels at home, Suniva has been able to capture lucrative federal contracts, avoid tariffs and appeal to private sector customers who want American-made products.

Founded in 2007 by solar scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Suniva has grown rapidly. While the company doesn’t disclose its financials, a federal contract from 2014 said Suniva had $93 million in annual revenue.

The company’s panels generate more electricity from the sun than typical Chinese-made panels, and they therefore command a premium price in the market.

Goldman Sachs as well as Suniva’s other investors - Warburg Pincus, New Enterprise Associates, Prelude Ventures and H.I.G. Ventures - will continue to hold stakes in the company. (Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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