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Solar panel maker SunPower is buying tariff-loving rival that hurt its sales

Solar panel maker SunPower is buying tariff-loving rival that hurt its sales
SunPower CEO Tom Werner, left, helps install solar panels. (SunPower)

SunPower Corp.'s new strategy: If you can't beat them in the tariff game, buy them.

The panel maker, which spent more than a year fighting U.S. import tariffs, announced Wednesday that it is buying a rival that was instrumental in pushing for them. The purchase of SolarWorld Americas for an undisclosed sum includes an Oregon factory that will help SunPower avoid the duties.

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SunPower's stock surged the most in more than three years on the news. With promised investment in the SolarWorld factory, the deal marks at least the second announced expansion of U.S. panel manufacturing since January, when President Trump imposed the tariffs of as much as 30%.

The deal "was catalyzed by the tariffs" that SunPower continues to oppose, Chief Executive Tom Werner said. The company produces modules in Asia and Mexico and has been seeking an exemption. He said in February that the duties were already affecting his business.

The deal follows China's JinkoSolar Holding Co., the world's biggest publicly traded solar company, which is planning a factory in Florida. Last month, JinkoSolar announced a four-year supply agreement with NextEra Energy Inc., which cited the advantages of buying cost-effective, U.S.-made products.

Shares of San Jose-based SunPower rose as much as 17%, their biggest intraday gain since February 2015. They finished the day up 11.9% at $9.34.

The Oregon plant has the capacity to turn out as much as 430 megawatts of cells and 550 megawatts of panels a year. SunPower plans to revamp the facility to produce its high-efficiency P-Series modules.

"Tariffs changed the equation," said Hugh Bromley, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "It's a little strange that SunPower would buy the company that helped cause the tariffs, but it's clear they wanted some U.S. manufacturing."

UPDATES:

2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with SunPower stock's closing price.

This article was originally published at 12:15 p.m.

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