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SunEdison solar projects in India attract buyers

[NEW YORK] Four companies have approached India about taking over solar projects from SunEdison Inc as the world's biggest clean-energy developer navigates bankruptcy, the nation's energy minister said.

India does not typically allow companies to sell projects while still under development but may make an exception in this instance, Energy Minister Piyush Goyal said in an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York.

His comments show that the struggling developer's assets all over the world have value, even after SunEdison filed this year's biggest US bankruptcy on Thursday with US$16.1 billion of liabilities.

The UK wind and solar-developer Ecotricity announced the same day that it had acquired SunEdison's UK rooftop solar unit, without providing the price.

"I already have four people asking me if I will give permission for them to take over the projects," Mr Goyal said. "No one has asked from the SunEdison side. The developers assume SunEdison wants to sell." He declined to identify the companies.

SunEdison was trying to sell as much as 1 gigawatt of unfinished projects in India as recently as this month before filing for bankruptcy protection, people familiar with the matter said.

The company is building seven solar projects with a total capacity of 1,060 megawatts in India and has another 168.9 megawatts of photovoltaic plants either fully or partly commissioned, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The London-based researcher said photovoltaic projects in India cost about US$900,000 a megawatt to develop, suggesting the whole portfolio may be valued at as much as US$1.1 billion when complete.

Renewable energy companies have distanced themselves from the collapse of SunEdison, saying the largest US bankruptcy this year won't harm the industry.

The bankruptcy says more about SunEdison's "relentless pursuit of growth" than the solar industry as a whole, said Jenny Chase, chief solar analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

She noted that other large developers such as First Solar Inc have been profitable in recent years. SunEdison's restructuring may even benefit some other solar developers.

"The issue with SunEdison was they tried to grow too fast and took on too much debt," Andrew de Pass, chief executive officer of Conergy, said in an interview.

The developer is majority-owned by Kawa Capital Management Inc, a Miami-based asset management firm that acquired assets of an insolvent German solar company three years ago.

Conergy completed almost 500 megawatts of solar plants last year generating revenue of more than US$500 million and has "little" debt, he said.

The biggest impact from SunEdison's bankruptcy could be the potential sales of project assets offered in what's already become a buyer's market. Conergy may bid on such assets with a partner, he said.

"There's going to be a flood of projects available and a supply glut," Mr de Pass said.

"Assuming we get a capital partner, hopefully it means we'll be able to pick up some of them at good prices," he added.


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