Solar giant Suntech defaults on debt

A giant solar panel outside Suntech's offices in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi. The Chinese solar panel giant says it is in default on its debt after failing to make a payment on $541 mn worth of bonds

Chinese solar panel giant Suntech Power announced Monday that it was in default on its debt after failing to make a payment on $541 million worth of bonds.

One of the world's top two solar cell and panel producers, targeted last year by US trade sanctions, Suntech said it had already entered an agreement with 60 percent of the bond holders to hold off legal claims while a debt restructuring can be negotiated.

The non-payment on the bonds triggered cross-default clauses with other lenders, putting Suntech in default on debt to the International Finance Corp. and Chinese domestic lenders.

The company said in a statement that it was unaware so far of any legal proceedings against it from creditors.

"Suntech intends to continue to engage with holders of the notes and other lenders with a view to achieving a consensual restructuring."

"It is currently a very difficult time for our company and our industry, but the management and board of Suntech are committed to finding a way forward," said Suntech chief executive David King in a statement.

"We are currently exploring strategic alternatives with lenders and potential investors, which could help to set us on a path towards longer term success."

Earlier this month, Suntech announced it was shutting a plant in the US state of Arizona and named a new chairwoman, ousting founder Shi Zhengrong.

US and European solar panel producers have blamed Suntech and other Chinese producers for flooding the global market, pushing prices down.

The European Union began an anti-dumping investigation into Chinese solar panels in September last year, followed by an anti-subsidy probe in November.

The United States last October confirmed hefty anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on Chinese solar cell makers, adding to trade tensions between the two economic powers.

Suntech shares were up 1.4 percent to 71 cents on the New York Stock Exchange in early trade Monday after the statement, after having lost more than half their value to below 50 cents a share last week following reports of the default.

The shares are down from more than $3.00 a year ago.