China's AVIC ordered to pay $70 million to U.S. wind firm

BEIJING (Reuters) - Tang Energy Group Ltd, a Dallas-based clean energy company, has won a more than $70 million arbitration award for breach of contract against China’s biggest state-owned aerospace and defense company, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).

A model of Y-20 military transporter aircraft is displayed at Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)'s booth at the Aviation Expo China 2015, in Beijing, China, September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The ruling on Monday by the International Centre for Dispute Resolution in Dallas provides a glimpse into the growing number of disputes between Western firms and Chinese companies doing business overseas.

Tang Energy argued AVIC did not fulfill commitments to help fund a West Texas wind farm and develop a global wind energy business as part of a joint venture, Soaring Wind Energy.

“The case clearly displays the need for Chinese companies operating in the United States to understand the importance of binding contracts, corporate formalities and the rule of law,” Tang Chief Executive Patrick Jenevein III said in a statement.

“For US-China business partnerships to succeed, there must be a level playing field that supports equality and transparency.”

AVIC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jenevein initially demanded about $2.25 billion in damages based on projects AVIC had developed without Soaring Wind in other parts of the world.

The award represents a setback for AVIC, which initially had invested $350,000 to take a 50 percent stake in the joint venture.

Chinese offshore non-financial investment increased 16 percent to $104.1 billion during the first 11 months of the year, China’s Ministry of Commerce said this month.

In the United States, Chinese firms completed more than $9 billion in transactions in the first nine months of the year, according to statistics compiled by New York-based consultancy Rhodium Group.

Tang Energy started its relationship with AVIC in 1996, establishing HT Blade, China’s largest wind turbine blade manufacturer, in 2001.

The Dallas-based company argued that it had brought to AVIC the opportunity to buy Cirrus Industries, the Minnesota maker of composite aircraft and propeller blades. AVIC allegedly used a different affiliate to buy Cirrus for $210 million in 2011 after benefiting from Tang’s knowledge about the company.

The arbitration panel concluded that AVIC operated as a “single unified entity”, rejecting AVIC’s assertion that the joint venture agreement was made with a U.S.-based subsidiary.

The Dallas arbitration award must be confirmed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Reporting by Matthew Miller; Editing by Stephen Coates