Ascent Solar Revives Ambitions With $450M Asia Deal

Colorado-based Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:ASTI) signed a long-term strategic deal with an Asian investment group that revives the company’s flagging ambitions to become a major player in the thin-film solar industry.

TFG Radiant Group – a joint venture of Chinese construction conglomerate Radiant Group and Singapore private investment firm Tertius Financial Group – made committments of about $450 million to Ascent. 

Over the last year, Ascent began shifting its business strategy away from building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) to more off-grid niche applications for military, developing countries and electronics charging.

The indication was that Ascent, whose revenue was less than $1 million in 2010, was abandoning large-scale, CIGS thin-film solar prouction to bigger industry players like Frontier Solar, and well-backed startups like Miasole and NanoSolar. 

But the TFG Radiant deal could boost production and reduce costs, so that Ascent remains in the game.

The joint development agreement between TFG Radiant and Ascent calls for establishing manufacturing facilities in East Asia. TFG Radiant is initially committing $165 million for a Chinese production plant with an initial annual capacity of 100 megawatts (MW).

Ascent will partially own the plants and receive royalties on all sales. TFG Radiant has the right to build multiple additional plants for the East Asian markets and Ascent will receive partial ownership, royalties and consulting fees for all of them.

Ascent will exclusively license its technology for fabrication and distribution to TFG Radiant for an East Asia territory that includes: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, and Singapore.

Ascent retains all rights for the U.S. and rest of the world and says it will develop a next-generation PV production line in Colorado. The company has applied for a US Department of Energy loan guarantee for a 150 MW production facility.

In addition, TFG Radiant purchased 6,400,000 shares of Ascent stock at $1.15 per share for $7.36 million, a premium of 56% from the closing price on August 12, 2011.

TFG Radiant also has the option to purchase an additional 9,500,000 shares of Ascent stock, at $1.55 per share for $14.7 million.

"This partnership enables Ascent to pursue the building integrated and building applied photovoltaic markets with a partner that will finance and drive manufacturing, sales, marketing, distribution and installation," says Amit Kumar, Chairman of Ascent.

"Strategically, this type of partnership enables us to focus on R&D, and product and plant development, while our partners focus on scale up, cost reduction and commercialization," Kumar continues.

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