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UAE's Microsol Buying Solon's Assets

In the latest chapter for consolidation in the solar industry, Solon has agreed to be bought by Microsol, a solar cell manufacturer based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for an undisclosed amount.

A "Solon Energy Group" will be formed with "essential components" and "key assets" of Solon SE and its subsidiaries, including its US-based operation. About 600 jobs worldwide are being transferred over to the new group and other affiliates. Production will be consolidated to Fujairah, on the UAE's eastern coast (on the Indian Ocean), though the main sites in Berlin-Adlershof (Germany), Tucson (USA), and Carmignano di Brenta (Italy) will be maintained, and Solon solar power systems will still be produced (at undeclared levels) in Germany and the US. Approval by Italian authorities is still pending.

Solon filed for insolvency (European lingo for "bankrupcy") in December, carrying nearly €400 million of debt (as of Sept. 30) on just €32 million of working capital and a "negative shareholders' equity" of €103.1 million. A search for new investors began in January; rumors of Microsol's interest started percolating in recent weeks, and were confirmed the company a few days ago.

Microsol, with "around 325 employees" in Fujairah, makes crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells and modules with "an EU counterpart," and plans to expand production capacity by 50 percent in 2012 to 225 megawatts; a 30MW module manufacturing facility was to come online at the end of 2011. The deal will help it expand beyond its "special emphasis" on India, to other markets in Europe and North America. It also sees strength in Solon's power plant business, R&D and product development, and marketing and distribution. "We will pursue an international growth strategy together with SOLON, which will open up enormous market potential," said Anjan Turlapati, chairman of Microsol, in a statement. Specifically to India, "Microsol's market access combined with SOLON's module, balance of system, and power plant expertise provide us with excellent prospects in India," he added. Its "favorable political and economic circumstances [offers] great potential for the power plant businesses."

For Solon's part, Turlapati says the US will continue to be a focus, leveraging "access to low cost, efficient cell and module facilities, and expertise in providing complete system solutions for the commercial and utility-scale markets." Dan Alcombright, president/CEO of Solon's North American operations, raises the bar, calling Microsol's new ownership "the backing needed to continue our robust expansion in the US," and labeling his company "the antidote to the recent phenomenon of solar companies failing today."

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