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Local solar energy company gets credit relief from China

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 1:26 a.m. HST, Jul 10, 2010

Honolulu-based Hoku Corp., a solar energy company, said yesterday it amended a supply pact with Chinese solar panel maker Suntech Power and signed a credit agreement with a Chinese bank to replace payments previously expected from Suntech.

Suntech is no longer obligated to make a scheduled $30 million payment, Hoku said in a news release. However, Hoku will retain the $2 million in prepayments that Suntech already made, which will be credited against future shipments of polysilicon. The payments are separate from the $20 million that Suntech invested in Hoku's stock through a private placement in early 2008.

At the same time, Hoku signed a $28.3 million credit agreement with the New York branch of China Construction Bank. The proceeds will be used to complete the construction of a polysilicon plant being built in Idaho by Hoku subsidiary Hoku Materials.

The new credit line follows a $20 million debt financing agreement Hoku signed with China Merchant Bank in May.

"As we continue to advance construction of our facility and look ahead to the planned ramp-up to the commercial production of polysilicon, we are very pleased to have the strong backing of both Tianwei and China Construction Bank," said Scott Paul, president & CEO of Hoku Corp.

Hoku has been struggling to raise capital for its $390 million polysilicon plant being built in Idaho. Last year Hoku sold a controlling interest in the company to China's Tianwei New Energy Holdings Co. to raise funds to finish the Idaho plant.

Hoku shares rose 10 cents, or 3.1 percent, to close at $3.34 yesterday on the Nasdaq exchange.

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