Total acquires PV panel maker

4 May 2011

Total has sealed a deal to buy up to 60 per cent of SunPower, one the USA’s largest solar power companies.

In a friendly tender offer, the French oil company will pay $23.25 for each SunPower share, valuing the Silicon Valley-based company’s equity at $2.3 billion. The deal illustrates Total’s commitment to the renewable energy sector and is further evidence of a consolidation trend in the global solar power sector.

SunPower designs, manufactures and installs photovoltaic solar panels for residential, commercial and utility applications. Total Gas and Power’s President Philippe Boisseau said that the deal would enable it to become “a major integrated player in solar energy”.

In addition to purchasing a controlling stake in SunPower, Total has agreed to provide the company with up to $1 billion of credit support over the next five years and to collaborate with SunPower in the development of advanced photovoltaic technologies.

“Total’s commitment and global presence will help accelerate our growth and solidify our position in the increasingly competitive solar sector,” said Tom Werner, SunPower’s CEO. “With Total’s $1 billion credit support agreement, solar research and development investments and the other resources available through its global network, we have taken the next step in positioning our business for continued growth and long-term success.”

Recent months have seen a number of major energy companies buying up stakes in independent solar energy companies, which are in need of capital to fuel expansion, and which face stiff competition from Chinese manufacturers.

Werner added: “Our relationship with Total will improve our capital structure enabling SunPower to accelerate our power plant and commercial development businesses, and expand our manufacturing capacity with lower cash requirements.”

Chinese solar panel manufacturers such as Suntech and Yingli have made significant inroads into the US market. Large multinationals such as Sharp, Areva and GE have all invested in solar energy companies in recent years.

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