4 January 2010


CIGS PV maker Solyndra files for $300m IPO

On 18 December, Solyndra Inc of Fremont, CA, USA, which manufactures copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) systems for commercial rooftops, filed a registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a proposed initial public offering of its common stock in early 2010. The firm aims to raise up to $300m.

Argonaut Private Equity and its affiliates already have 35.74% of Solyndra’s outstanding common stock on an as-converted basis, and have the right to purchase up to 15% of the shares offered at the initial price to the public (although it is under no obligation to purchase any). Other existing shareholders include Madrone Partners (11%), US Venture Partners (10.19%), RockPort Capital Partners (7.5%), CMEA Ventures (6.81%), and Redpoint Ventures (5.94%), as well as founder & CEO Christian Gronet (8.06% — Solyndra was incorporated in May 2005 as Gronet Technologies Inc, but was renamed in January 2006).

Solyndra's proprietary 11–14%-efficient solar panels comprise a 1m-by-2m array of 40 cylindrical tubes. This 'self-tracking' design — with a 360º surface that can absorb direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight (from below) — allows the capture of more sunlight from low-slope commercial rooftops than conventional flat-surfaced panels, which need costly tilted mounting devices to improve the capture of direct sunlight, offer poor collection of diffuse light, and fail to collect reflected light. Also, gaps between the tubes and frame let wind pass through, reducing the need for heavy, roof-penetrating fastenings or anchoring; lighter weight also allows installation on scantier roofs.

By 3 October, Solyndra had raised nearly $970m through equity financing, including a $281m round F in Q3/2009.

Capital expenditure rose from $5.1m in 2006 to $94.8m in 2007, $144.5m in 2008, and $101.5m for the nine months of 2009 (plus an estimated $87m in Q4/2009). CapEx is expected to be $590m in 2010. Solyndra has also invested at least $290m in R&D.

Consequently, net losses have risen from $27.2m in 2006 to $114.1m for 2007 and $232.1m in 2008, when it generated $6m in revenue (69% from Germany). In the first nine months of 2009, net loss was $119.2m on revenue of $58.8m. In total, since starting commercial shipments in July 2008, Solyndra has sold 18.8MW of panels (1.6 MW in 2008 and 17.2MW in the first nine months of 2009). More than 85% of shipments have been to Europe.

In total, Solyndra has announced more than $2bn in sales deals in the USA and Europe. In particular, framework agreements with system integrators and roofing materials manufacturers outline general terms for delivering up to 865MW of solar energy systems (panels and racks) by the end of 2013. However, Solyndra’s existing 300,000ft2 factory is running at an annual production rate of just 45MW (though it should expand to 110MW by the end of 2010).

Hence, in September, US vice president Joe Biden announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) had finalized a $535m federal loan guarantee that is expected to provide debt financing of 73% for construction of the first phase of the firm's $733m second panel manufacturing plant (Fab 2) covering about 1 million square feet in nearby Milpitas. The groundbreaking ceremony in September drew Energy Secretary Steve Chu and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Annual production capacity should be 250MW by first-half 2012. The second and final phase should add another 250MW (raising capacity to 500MW) and cost another $642m, funded partly by proceeds from the IPO. Solyndra has also applied for a federal loan guarantee of $469m to help finance phase 2. The new plant should initially create 3000 construction jobs, and lead to as many as 1000 jobs once the facility opens, reckons the firm (which currently employs 600). The second phase should employ 1000 more.

See related items:

CIGS PV maker Solyndra breaks ground on 500MW Fab 2

Solyndra secures $535m DoE loan guarantee

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