Investment Banking

SunEdison Cutting Jobs, Closing Plants

The renewable energy development company is trying to clean up its balance sheet and move to an 'asset-light' strategy for some business lines.
Katie Kuehner-HebertFebruary 18, 2016
SunEdison Cutting Jobs, Closing Plants

SunEdison on Thursday announced moves to “re-engineer” its business, after its shares crashed in the pre-market and its attempts to de-leverage hit a snag.

The Maryland Heights, Mo.-based clean energy developer announced plans to sell its Kuching, Malaysia silicon wafer production facility to China-based LONGi Silicon Materials; close its Pasadena, Texas, polysilicon production facility, resulting in roughly 180 job cuts; and refocus its Portland, Ore., operations into a cost effective R&D and technology demonstration center, resulting in roughly 40 job cuts.

“We are moving forward on several fronts with our asset-light strategy for the upstream solar materials business,” SunEdison’s chief executive Ahmad R. Chatila said in a press release. “We believe our actions to re-engineer this business will maximize the value of our world-leading silicon production technologies, enabling SunEdison’s long term downstream growth and curtailing headwinds caused by trade actions and the commoditization of certain products.”

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In the meantime, though, SunEdison’s efforts to clean up its balance sheet hit a snag. Hawaiian Electric last week canceled its contracts with SunEdison for solar power because the beleaguered clean-energy developer is so far behind on some solar farms, according to Bloomberg.

SunEdison’s projects for Hawaiian Electric — a 65-megawatt Kawailoa solar farm, the 64-megawatt Waipio plant, and the 19-megawatt Milani II facility – were slated to be transferred to creditors including DE Shaw & Co. when completed.

“SunEdision missed multiple deadlines throughout the process, did not provide adequate assurances that it could secure financing to develop these projects, and did not propose viable options to address the significant risks to our customers of not securing lower cost renewable energy,” Darren Pai, a spokesman for Hawaiian Electric, said in a statement late Wednesday. “SunEdison has known for over a month that we had the right to terminate and were considering termination of the contract.”

SunEdison spokesman Ben Harborne wrote in an emailed statement to Bloomberg that the firm is fighting the utility’s cancellation.

The loss of the contracts could unravel a proposed accord to transfer plants to DE Shaw and other investors, Credit Suisse analyst Patrick Jobin told Bloomberg.

In an effort to deleverage its balance sheet, SunEdison in December agreed to transfer more than 1 gigawatts of solar projects — including the 148 megawatts in Hawaii — and 12.2 million shares of its TerraForm Power yieldco unit to DE Shaw, Madison Dearborn Partners LLC, and Northwestern University, Bloomberg wrote. In exchange, the trio agreed to nullify $336 million in debt.

As a result of the restructuring actions announced on Thursday, SunEdison expects to report a total of $266 million in non-cash impairment charges and a total of $171 million in other restructuring charges in its fiscal 2015 fourth quarter financial results. It also expects to report approximately $10 million to $13 million in other restructuring charges in fiscal 2016.