Despite Oil and Stock Market Crash, Solar Sector Funding Up in Q3 2015

Total global corporate funding in the solar sector, including venture capital/private equity (VC), debt financing, and public market financing raised by public companies, came to $6.2 billion, compared to $5.9 billion in Q2 2015, according to Mercom Capital Group’s report on funding and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for the solar sector in the third quarter of 2015.

Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group said in a release that Q3 was “eventful” especially regarding the equity markets.  “Although solar power demand continues to grow, solar stocks have made a complete U-turn in the last three months, affecting public market financing, which was down by about a billion dollars excluding IPOs,” he added.

VC funding increased to $257 million in 15 deals, compared to $142 million in 24 deals in Q2 2015. Solar downstream companies continued to draw most of the VC investments with $114 million in seven deals.

Among the Top 5 VC deals in Q3 2015, the largest was the $105 million raised by Silicor Materials, a manufacturer of high-quality solar silicon and aluminum by-products, followed by the $80 million raised by Sunlight Financial, a provider of financing for the residential solar market. Two companies raised $25 million each this quarter; Alcazar Energy, an independent developer and power producer focused on renewable energy generation and Ampt, a provider of power conversion technologies for solar PV systems. Completing the Top 5 was HiQ Solar, a designer and manufacturer of 3-phase solar PV inverters, which raised $11 million.

A total of 21 investors participated in Q3 2015, with Infuse Ventures and Hudson Clean Energy Partners investing in three and two deals respectively.

Solar Stocks Down

Public market financing fell to $1.8 billion compared to $2.3 billion in Q2 2015. There were three IPOs this quarter: TerraForm Global, a yieldco subsidiary of SunEdison, raised $675 million and Sunrun, a U.S.-based residential solar company, raised $250.6 million and listed on Nasdaq. Grenergy Renovables, a Spanish solar project developer and an independent power producer, raised $4.2 million and listed on the Spanish Mercado Alternativo Bursatil (MAB).

“With yieldcos falling out of favor, their fundraising in the public markets fell by half this quarter to $802 million,” commented Prabhu.

Debt and Project Financing Up

Debt financing saw an uptick this quarter with about $4.1 billion, compared to $3.4 billion in Q2 2015. Chinese companies dominated debt financing activity, raising more than $2.9 billion compared to $1.4 billion in Q2 2015. There were three securitization deals announced in Q3, totaling $335 million, by Solar City, SunRun and AES.

Announced large-scale project funding totaled $2.5 billion in 23 deals, while Q2 2015 saw $1.9 billion in 26 deals.

The Top 5 large-scale project funding deals included

  • $400 million for 100-MW Redstone CSP Tower Project in Northern Cape, South Africa.
  • $337 million for 200-MW Tranquility Solar Project in California
  • $266 million for 100-MW Mustang Solar Project located in California
  • $253 million for 156-MW Comanche solar project in Pueblo, Colorado
  • $223.5 million for nine PV projects with a combined capacity of 69.3 MW in France

After two record quarters, residential and commercial solar funds announced in Q3 2015 dropped to $997 million in five deals. Out of $997 million in residential and commercial funds announced this quarter, $777 million went into the lease/PPA model and $200 million was for loan products. SolarCity raised the most funding for the quarter, bringing in $400 million. In Q2 2015, residential and commercial solar funds raised nearly $2 billion in five deals. Year-to-date, $4.8 billion has been raised, already exceeding the $4 billion in all of last year.

Solar Downstream Companies Dominate Merger and Acquisition (M&A) Activity

There were 22 corporate M&A transactions in the solar sector in Q3, compared to 17 transactions in Q2 2015.  Solar downstream companies accounted for most of the M&A transactions with 12.

The largest disclosed M&A transactions by dollar amount was led by the $2.2 billion acquisition of Vivint Solar, a provider of residential solar systems, by SunEdison, followed by the $1 billion acquisition of an 80 percent stake in Gestamp Asetym Solar, a solar PV developer and operator, from Gestamp Renewables by KKR, an investment firm. Flextronics International, a provider of design, engineering, manufacturing, real-time supply chain insight and logistics services, acquired NEXTracker, a solar tracking solution provider, for $330 million.

ENGIE (formerly GDF Suez), an electric utility, acquired a 95 percent stake in Solairedirect, a solar project developer, for $222 million. Opera Investments, an investment firm formed for the purpose of acquiring a company, business, project or asset in the natural resources sector, acquired SoloPower Systems, a CIGS thin-film module manufacturer, from Hudson Clean Energy, a U.S.-based private equity and infrastructure firm, for $220 million.

Project Acquisitions Total $1.2B

There were 42 large-scale solar project acquisitions totaling $1.2 billion with about 3.9 GW changing hands, compared to 66 transactions in Q2 2015 for $2.9 billion.

Mercom also tracked 346 large-scale project announcements worldwide in Q3 2015 totaling 11.7 GW.

Click here to learn more about the report.

Lead image: Solar sector funding up. Credit: Shutterstock.

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