Suntech's Boardroom Turmoil

Solar Farm Desert
Solar Farm Desert

On Monday, the board of directors for Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE: STP) removed its founder and executive chairman, Shi Zhenrong, replacing him with another board member, Susan Wang, as executive chairman. Shi retains his board seat, for what that's now worth.

The former chairman issued a statement last night that the board's action was "misconceived and unlawful" and, therefore, "invalid and of no effect." The board of directors issued a statement today saying that it is confident the move is "valid and effective under the law of the Cayman Islands," where Suntech is incorporated.

Added to this turmoil, Suntech must come up with a way to cover a $541 million convertible bond that comes due next week. The company has not posted a profitable quarter in two years, and no end to that string is in sight. The company really has no way to repay that bond unless the cavalry rides to the rescue.

And if the cavalry does show up, it is pretty certain that Shi will not be among those saved. It was on his watch that Suntech overbuilt production capacity and fell for what the company says is a fraud involving German bonds that has cost it $680 million. Shi was replaced as Suntech's CEO last August, following disclosure of the bond fiasco.

If Suntech is saved, it will be the Chinese government that rides to the rescue, or one of the local banks that wants to preserve the jobs the company brings to the local economy. Bridge financing could be arranged until the company could get another bond issue together. But it seems unlikely that the former chairman would be asked to stay on after his poor performance to date.

Shares of Suntech are down more than 4% at $1.16, in a 52-week range of $0.71 to $3.68. Most of the other Chinese solar makers are trading up today. Suntech's problems are its own.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Alternative Energy, Corporate Governance, Green Biz, Management Change, Shareholder Issues, Technology, Technology Companies Tagged: STP