Sharp’s Wrexham solar plant under threat

The company is considering leaving the solar PV market both in Europe and the US, perhaps as early as next year. It will instead concentrate production in Japan under a turnaround plan approved by banks. Originally Sharp was planning to move its headquarters to Wrexham, but that now seems unlikely.

Sharp has had a presence in Wrexham for almost 30 years and the site currently employs around 500 people. The company seemed to be unaffected by cuts to solar subsidies in the UK and so previously denied it would scale back operations in the town where its plant has seen investment of over £26 million.

The company declined to comment on its operations on the grounds that no action has been officially decided as yet. However, it did issue a statement confirming loan extensions and other financing from banks totalling ¥360bn (£2.9bn) after making a net loss of ¥376bn (£3bn) last year. It could also shed 10,000 jobs as it seeks to return to profit. The major problem seems to be the loss in profits from television sales rather than from its solar PV division but the company is nevertheless facing intense competition from cheap Chinese solar imports which has contributed to a 16 percent fall in revenue from solar cells and an operating loss of ¥22bn (£174m) in its solar operations.

Sharp isn’t the only company to feel the pinch from China as at least 20 major EU solar manufacturers have gone bust in 2012 alone provoking the EU into launching an investigation into alleged Chinese ‘solar dumping’ practices driven by illegal subsidies from Beijing. The US has already taken action on this issue having introduced ‘anti-dumping’ tariffs of around 31 percent on Chinese imports earlier this year.

In other news, last month Sharp unveiled its new innovative see-through solar panels which are to be launched in Japan shortly.

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