Hoku shares rise on improved financing plans for Idaho plant
By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Greg Wiles
Shares of Kapolei-based Hoku Scientific Inc. jumped by as much as 19 percent in after-hours trading yesterday after the company announced it had cleared a significant hurdle in its efforts to finance a polysilicon plant it is building in Pocatello, Idaho.
Hoku's shares traded as high as $6.59 after having closed regular Nasdaq Stock Market trading at $5.55 a share and after Hoku released statements saying it had resolved some of the uncertainty around the $390 million plant's financing. The company also announced it had cleared up issues relating to overselling of the plant's planned production.
"We resolved the issue of our plant being oversubscribed and gained the flexibility to allocate that capacity to customers that are able to provide up-front capital for the plant construction costs," said Hoku Chief Executive Officer Dustin Shindo in a press statement.
"Owing to Hoku's demonstrated progress, we are now able to secure contracts with more favorable prepayment and pricing terms."
Hoku had been under pressure to come up with new financing for the plant after its prior plans were scuttled by a credit crunch in finance markets. It previously had $110 million of financing lined up through Merrill Lynch, but this became too expensive and the deal was scrapped in May.
Hoku is building the facility to take advantage of the surging market for polysilicon, a material used in the cells of photovoltaic panels and in computer chips.
The financing problems have been an anchor on Hoku's shares, which had traded as high as $14.88 this year and reached a 52-week low of $4.02 in early July.
In recent months, the company has made a frenzied effort to stitch together funding for the the Idaho venture by arranging prepayment contracts with customers and through a stock sale. Yesterday it announced a deal with Solargiga Energy Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong company with manufacturing operations in China, for up to $455 million of polysilicon.
The 10-year accord includes $43 million of prepayments this year that will help Hoku with its plant financing. With this, Hoku said it had lined up $270 million of financing from customers and that it was adding another $47 million of its own cash toward the plant's $390 million price tag.
It said it expects to finance the remaining $73 million of the project with other prepayments from new customers and through debt or equity financing.
At the same time, Hoku announced that agreements with two customers it had previously signed and had little prepayment financing from were being dissolved.
Hoku said by terminating the sales agreements with Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. and Global Expertise Wafer Division Ltd., it had solved a problem with overselling of the plant's planned annual production of 3,500 metric tons (equivalent to 3,920 tons). It also means that Hoku will return $4 million of deposits the companies had made with it.
Reach Greg Wiles at email@example.com.