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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hoku seeks competitive edge

BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hoku Scientific said its solar installation business declined in the latest quarter as it concentrated on financing its new polysilicon plant in Pocatello, Idaho.

Hoku Scientific photo

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Tianwei New Energy Holdings Co. Ltd. and its 60-percent owned Hoku Scientific Inc. announced they've signed a letter of intent to explore the creation of a fund of as much as $50 million to provide financing for photovoltaic systems.

The fund could be tapped by firms buying large photovoltaic systems installed by Hoku Scientific.

Hoku said the financing pool would give it a competitive advantage amid myriad companies seeking to install such systems. Chengdu, China-based Tianwei said the fund might be attractive to Chinese investors looking to capitalize on a growing market in the U.S.

Tianwei became the largest shareholder in Hoku in October as the Honolulu-based company sought new funding and help in finishing an Idaho plant to manufacture polysilicon, used in the making of photovoltaic cells.

Separately, Hoku yesterday announced its financial results for the quarter ended Dec. 31 reporting its 12th quarterly loss in the past 13 quarters, as its bottom-line deficit widened to $1.27 million, or 6 cents a share.

The company said its focus in the quarter was on obtaining financing for the polysilicon facility and that its solar installation business suffered as a result. It also said purchasing cycles for photovoltaic systems in Hawai'i were slower in 2009.

The results compared with a loss a year earlier of $863,000, or 4 cents a share.

Revenue for the quarter shrank to $259,000 from $767,000 a year earlier.

Hoku reported it delayed a December reactor demonstration test at the Idaho plant because it had expected $50 million in financing from Tianwei in November. Instead, it received $20 million Jan. 21 and expects $30 million in late February.

With the delay, "our first priority is to pay our most overdue invoices from our vendors before spending the money on new construction," Dustin Shindo, Hoku president, chief executive officer and chairman, said in a press statement.

"We now expect to conduct reactor demonstration testing by March 2010, and to begin our ramp-up to commercial production as soon as possible thereafter."