[Editor's note: We've covered Hanergy's past photovoltaic acquisitions and current woes -- its Hong Kong exchange stock was just suspended. Last month, John Hempton of Bronte Capital snapped some photos of Hanergy's solar factory in Heyuan, Guangdong province, one of the gigawatt-scale sites in the Hanergy PV portfolio, and we're reprinting his blog post about the visit. Hanergy does have other planned or operating sites; its Chengdu factory is home to 600 megawatts of active amorphous-silicon production.]
Now that Hanergy has been suspended, I can let these out.
I went to visit Hanergy's main factory in China about six weeks ago. It was almost entirely silent. There was essentially no production of solar cells at all, and the accounts that suggest significant production and sales are entirely fraudulent.
There was some evidence that someone was exploring starting production -- and I will get to that -- but the factory was almost entirely idle.
Here are a few photos.
This is the plant. There were almost no cars, despite a vast car park. All gates except one were locked.
There was a single truck being loaded with solar cells -- so there was some production. However, this truck was being loaded when we arrived and was still there when we left two hours later. This plant, if it had any production at all, had it only on a trial basis. The accounts that suggest substantial production are false.
This is another photograph of the main drive to the plant. One car was parked there, and there was no movement.
This I found particularly bizarre. There were solar cells set up around the plant. Some of them were set up in triangle-patterns. This is the only place I have ever seen solar cells set up so that they are not oriented toward the sun.
I walked around the enormous plant. Not a truck went by, and the only people we saw except at the side were the gardeners. (There were several of them, and we asked them if it ever got any busier. They confirmed it did not.)
However, on the side, there was a shaded area with some motorbikes parked, which suggests that the plant is not entirely idle. Just almost.
Strangely, two white guys walked out of the plant. I think they were Americans trying to sell some technology -- maybe sales guys from AMAT -- but I am only guessing. I tried to signal for them to come over but they did not.
There has been much press that compares Hanergy to other solar companies and suggests there may be disruptions in the market for panels. Garbage, I say. The right comparison is Sino-Forest or Longtop Financial Technology.
Hanergy barely existed.
Hempton writes, "Disclosure that will annoy my clients: Despite sitting on these, we were not short Hanergy. Too much squeeze risk for my liking."
John Hempton is the Chief Investment Officer at Bronte Capital, an Australian-licensed and USA-registered fund manager focused on global long/short equity investing for non-retail clients. Reprinted with permission.