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SolarWorld again insolvent in Germany; US operation unaffected

Less than a year after Germany's SolarWorld AG filed for bankruptcy, its slimmed-down successor, SolarWorld Industries GmbH, has sent new insolvency papers to a court in Bonn. Oregon-based SolarWorld Americas Inc., however, is unaffected, a spokesman said.

"We are an independent company so we don't expect any impact," spokesman Ben Santarris said in a March 28 email. Indeed, when Qatar Solar Technologies and SolarWorld AG CEO Frank Asbeck in August 2017 acquired certain assets of the insolvent company and formed SolarWorld Industries, the U.S. subsidiary was left out of the deal. SolarWorld Americas, which Santarris has described as "a non-bankrupt subsidiary of a bankrupt parent," laid off 360 employees in 2017, about half its workforce, but now says it is ready to resume growth.

With the help of a $5 million loan announced Feb. 28, the company plans to add 200 employees and ramp up capacity at its plant in Hillsboro, Ore. "With this latest cash infusion, our creditors are demonstrating their confidence in our company and its outlook for growth," SolarWorld Americas CEO and President Juergen Stein said at the time. The company cited the import tariffs President Donald Trump placed on foreign-made cells and panels as a "favorable outcome" for its return to growth. SolarWorld Americas and another U.S. manufacturer, Suniva Inc., asked for the tariffs to protect them from less expensive foreign products, mainly from China.

SolarWorld Industries, which had requested an exemption from U.S. import tariffs, was hurt by Trump's tariffs on top of loopholes in the European Union's anti-dumping measures against Chinese solar panels, according to an article in the German business newspaper Handelsblatt. Following its March 27 filing, an insolvency administrator must now decide whether to continue operations. Around 600 employees could be affected at two factories in eastern Germany, according to the paper. Entering 2017, SolarWorld AG had more than 3,000 employees.