Legal Review: Suniva Will Continue Operations Per SQN

By New Jersey Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorney Carroll of Garden State Bankruptcy.

Suniva, the solar manufacturer with headquarters in Georgia, is headed to bankruptcy court. The solar company influenced the Trump administration to levy tariffs on solar panel imports worldwide using Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, instigating the trade war that is now being played out in the geopolitical arena.

However, the company has been in bankruptcy since March 2017; it saw the 30 percent tariffs as the way to save jobs in the solar manufacturing industry — 260,000 people — and eliminate the threat from China and their cheap imports.

The solar industry, led by SEIA, the Solar Energy Industries Association, fought Suniva’s proposal, believing just the opposite would happen, that higher prices on imports would cause job losses.

In fact, although there have been many project cancellations, the job losses have not been severe. Suniva has not been active and manufacturing at its U.S. factories has been stalled for a year while in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and looking for a buyer.

To get around the US tariffs, JinkoSolar, a Chinese solar company, announced in March that it would spend $50 million to build a plant in Jacksonville, Florida. Suniva’s assessment of the tariffs’ impact was correct and the manufacturing industry is picking up.

In April, SunPower Corp, the largest US solar company, said it would acquire SolarWorld Americas, another manufacturer who also favored the tariffs. And First Solar Inc. also announced in April that it will open a new plant in Ohio.

However, Suniva’s fate has not turned around. Its largest creditor, SQN Capital Management, asked the bankruptcy court to allow it to sell assets it held as collateral on loans totaling $57 million at manufacturing plants in Saginaw, Michigan and Norcross, Georgia; these assets consist of the contents of the factories: printers, ovens, diffusers, conveyers and laminators as well as its patents and trademarks.

Wanxiang America Corp., a Chinese company that holds other assets, including much of Suniva’s equipment, joined SQN Capital Management in the late May auction.

“Chapter 11 is an option companies might pursue to hold off creditors while they draft a business plan to get out of bankruptcy,” said an attorney with Garden State Bankruptcy. “If a business cannot reorganize within a reasonable time period, this might be the best course of action. If they continue missing deadlines, auctioning off the company’s property, including equipment as well as intellectual property such as patents and trademarks in Chapter 7 can result, which will dissolve the company.”

If no reasonable offer is made at auction, Suniva’s creditors could buy the assets and own the company themselves, which is what happened — last week, SQN announced that it has released Suniva from bankruptcy and will restart operations soon.

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