SunPower Buying Tariff-Loving Rival That Hurt Its Sales

(Bloomberg) -- SunPower Corp.’s new strategy: If you can’t beat them in the tariff game, buy them.

The panel maker, which spent more than a year fighting U.S. import tariffs, announced Wednesday it was buying a rival that was instrumental in pushing for them. The purchase of SolarWorld Americas for an undisclosed sum includes an Oregon factory that will help SunPower avoid the duties.

SunPower surged the most in more than three years on the news. With promised investment in the SolarWorld factory, the deal marks at least the second announced expansion of U.S. panel manufacturing since President Donald Trump imposed in January the tariffs of as much as 30 percent.

The deal “was catalyzed by the tariffs” which SunPower continues to oppose, Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said in an interview from Washington. The company currently produces modules in Asia and Mexico and has been seeking an exemption. He said in February that the duties were already impacting his business.

SunPower Buying Tariff-Loving Rival That Hurt Its Sales

The deal follows China’s JinkoSolar Holding Co., the world’s biggest publicly traded solar company, which is planning a factory in Florida. The company announced a four-year supply agreement last month with NextEra Energy Inc., which cited the advantages of buying cost-effective, U.S.-made products.

SunPower rose as much as 17 percent, the most intraday since February 2015.

The Oregon plant has the capacity to turn out as much as 430 megawatts of cells and 550 megawatts of panels a year. San Jose, California-based SunPower plans to revamp the facility to produce its high-efficiency P-Series modules.

“Tariffs changed the equation,” said Hugh Bromley, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It’s a little strange that SunPower would buy the company that helped cause the tariffs but it’s clear they wanted some U.S. manufacturing.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.