"Capital flows for cleantech in China are not well understood," said Dan Reicher of Stanford University in an interview we will publish later this week.
But is that really true?
A few weeks ago, I published a chart that sought to put the magnitude of the Solyndra loan money into perspective. Based on that chart, it would appear that China is providing tens of billions of dollars in low-cost loans to Chinese solar companies. The table that follows (from Mercom Capital) would seem to confirm this.
Chart by Ryan Cunningham using Reuters and Bloomberg sources
Mercom Capital asserts that the loans to solar companies total over $40 billion over the last two years.
Reuters, Bloomberg, and Mercom would seem like reliable outlets.
But according to Suntech and other sources in the know -- they are flat-out wrong.
According to a spokesperson from Suntech, of the total $7 billion China Development Bank credit facility received by Suntech, less than 10 percent was actually drawn down. According to Suntech, "In addition, last year, Suntech paid an average of 4 percent to 5 percent interest on our loans, much higher than the 1 percent given to U.S. companies under the DOE loan guarantee program. As most of our loans are at variable rates, this year we are paying closer to 6 percent as China has raised interest rates to combat inflation. The China Development Bank made higher profits last year than Morgan Stanley and you don’t do that by giving away free money."
Here is an image from Suntech's form 20F (annual and transition report of foreign private issuers) that cites the interest rates of the loans from the Bank of China at between 4.8 and 5.4 percent.
A U.S.-based senior executive at a global solar company with operations in China told Greentech Media that "any chart suggesting that Chinese banks have actually lent “tens of billions” is not accurate. They have offered to lend, but much, much less of this money has actually been lent since the companies first have to go through a rigorous lending approval cycle. Just look at their balance sheets to see how much is really being lent."
Perhaps capital flows for cleantech in China can be understood.