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Bankruptcy judge approves asset sales by Evergreen Solar

Hong Kong firm wins bidding for key technology

WILMINGTON, Del. - Evergreen Solar Inc., a bankrupt solar panel maker, has won court approval to sell most of its assets, including a sale of its core wafer assets to a Hong Kong company.

A bankruptcy judge, Mary F. Walrath, approved three sales yesterday to three different buyers, after the Massachusetts company held an auction earlier this week.

Evergreen will sell its core wafer assets to Hong Kong-based Max Era Properties Ltd. for about $9.2 million, according to court documents.

The core wafer assets consist of intellectual property for Evergreen’s so-called wide wafer technology, used to produce solar panel cells, and interests in a Chinese joint venture. Three “Gemini patents,’’ in which the Department of Energy claims to hold rights and are not useful to the production of the wide wafer technology, are not included.

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“It’s bittersweet,’’ said P. Sabin Willett, a lawyer for the company. “We are happy we completed the sale but it’s sad for the solar industry, which has become a political football.’’

Evergreen will sell a claim of about $171 million against an affiliate of bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. to its 13 percent senior secured noteholders for $21.5 million in debt forgiveness, court papers show. The noteholders are also the backup buyer for the core wafer assets if Max Era fails to close.

The company sold its solar panel inventory to Kimball Holdings LLC for about $3.8 million, according to court documents.

The sales will result in “essentially a mass reduction in force of virtually everybody as soon as next week,’’ said Steven Wilamowsky, an Evergreen attorney. The company originally planned the sale intending for the buyer to keep operating the business as a going concern. No potential buyer expressed any interest in keeping the employees.

Employees who will be losing their jobs will receive their severance, Wilamowsky said. “We want to give them their full entitlement in a lump sum in cash at the time of their termination,’’ Wilamowsky told the judge.

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The company did not sell its 450,000-square foot plant in Devens, Mass., which it closed earlier this year.

Evergreen filed for bankruptcy protection in August, blaming increased competition from government-subsidized solar-panel makers in China and the failure of the United States to adopt clean-energy policies. The company had 133 US-based employees, some of whom were fired during the course of the bankruptcy. The company listed about $485.6 million in debt and about $424.5 million in assets when it filed.