Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. ("Ascent") (NASDAQ: ASTI), a manufacturer of state-of-the-art, flexible thin-film photovoltaic modules, integrated into the company's EnerPlexTM series of consumer products, announced the signing of a framework agreement for the establishment of a joint venture with the Government of the Municipal City of Suqian in Jiangsu Province, China ("Suqian").
- New plant is to be built in Suqian of Jiangsu Province, China with funding from the Suqian Government in a Joint Venture
The agreement covers a multi-faceted, three-phase project over the next six years.
Suqian, is a prefecture-level city in northern Jiangsu Province with an area of 3,303 square miles and a population over 5 million. Strategically located between the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, Suqian is well connected to both Beijing and Shanghai in less than 3 hours by high-speed train. Suqian is one of the fastest growing prefecture-level cities in China, boasting a GDP of $25 billion, in 2012, and growing nearly 13% annually.
Under the framework agreement, in the first phase, Ascent and Suqian will form a joint venture entity ("JV") in which Ascent will have majority interest of up to 80%. The JV will build a factory to manufacture Ascent's proprietary Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenium (CIGS) photovoltaic modules on flexible thin films. Ascent will contribute proprietary technology and intellectual property, approximately $1.6 million in cash and certain equipment from its Colorado facility. Suqian will provide cash of approximately $32.5 million as well as rent-free use of a 270,000 square foot factory that is currently being built in the Suqian Economic and Industrial Development Science Park. This factory is expandable to 1,000,000 square feet for phases two and three of the agreement. The total project size of Phase one of the alliance is expected to be approximately $160 million. Ascent will have the right to purchase the factory anytime within the first 5 years at the initial construction cost, as well as the right to purchase Suqian's ownership interest in the JV for a modest nominal cost above Suqian's cash investment.
Suqian will also provide a package of additional incentives including a multi-year corporate tax holiday, coverage of substantial operational costs for scientists, engineers and management personnel, and significant housing subsidies and tax incentives for key employees of the JV. As Phase two and three of this program are implemented, Ascent will have the option to purchase approximately 1.3 million square feet of land zoned for commercial usage at a favorable cost, as well as the right to arrange sale or lease of land and factory rights to suppliers and support industries brought in by Ascent, which may generate additional meaningful cash flow for the JV.