At the AGM on Apr 27, Monday: Franky Fan (centre), Ken Wu, Finance Director (left). Photo by Leong Chan Teik

SHAREHOLDERS at the annual general meeting asked about the progress of the new solar business that Anwell Technologies is venturing into.

They had many a follow-up question as Franky Fan, chairman and CEO of Anwell, described the venture and its prospects.

Franky said, yes, the installation of the solar manufacturing equipment has been completed and is now undergoing testing.

The equipment was made by Anwell itself - the world's second largest manufacturer of equipment that replicates optical discs such as DVDs - in its Dongguan plant. The equipment was subsequently transported north last December to Henan where its massive solar plant is sited.

“In Q3 we should be able to start pilot production,” Franky assured the shareholders at the AGM at Wilkie Edge in Wilkie Road. “We still have to go through certification which will take about six months – but that doesn’t mean we cannot sell the solar panels during that time. We can sell to some markets and to solar farms.”

When obtained, the certification - TUV and UL - will enable Anwell to sell to Europe and the US.

A shareholder then referred to the postage stamp-sized picture of the solar plant in the annual report, saying it looked like a very big plant.

Franky said the picture showed just one factory with a capacity of 120 MW but the first production line is for 40MW. The entire plot of land is about 680 acres, and will be developed in phases. The target is to reach 1,000 MW in 2013.

“I think big for this project but we still have to do things step by step,” said Franky.

“At 40 MW, this is already a world-class factory. Many people produce just 4-5 MW but we can do 40MW because we are a world-class company.”
Anwell owns 90% of the solar business, with the remaining 10% owned by a local investor  which has injected US$7 million cash into the venture.

Anwell's solar panel production line in Henan undergoing testing. Photo taken on Apr 23 by Leong Chan Teik

Investor interest

Anwell’s strategy for the solar business is the same as that for its optical disc business: it is vertically integrated. That means, the company manufactures its own production equipment - and produces the products.

Franky said there is already investor interest in participating in Anwell's solar venture.  “We want to make ourselves strong first – strong in terms of technology, cost-volume and marketing. Then we will open our doors to investors and make this project big. A lot of investors are talking to us now but I say let’s wait.”

Asked about news that Brazil Energy has an interest in buying from Anwell, Franky said a MOU has been signed for Anwell to manufacture a production line and to supply 4-5 MW of solar panels. Other parties also have expressed interest in buying production lines.

Anwell’s solar panels are of the thin-film variety, which is of lower cost than the conventional type. Deutsche Bank in a report has listed Anwell as among the top four companies in the world which can produce turnkey integrated systems for producing thin-film panels.

Asked by a shareholder if Anwell had confirmed buyers, Franky said: “The industry practice is that we sign long-term MOUs. We have a pipeline up to 2012-2013.”

The selling price of of the products would depend on the market value. "If Anwell can produce quality panels and sell at reasonable terms of payment, there’s no reason why we cannot complete those MOUs,” said Franky.

In Henan: Ken Wu explaining the solar plant to Singapore analysts on Apr 23. Photo by Leong Chan Teik

He acknowledged that the global credit crunch has caused a delay in some projects around the world but the business fundamentals of the solar industry are determined by governments – and they are keen on renewable energy.

”Management believes we have made a good decision in entering the solar business as it leverages on our existing technology platform in the optical disc business. Renewable energy is the future. A hundred years from now, there won’t be optical discs but a million years from now, we still need energy.”

Summary of story by The Edge Singapore: 
ANWELL TECHNOLOGIES: Strengthening its position during solar slowdown

Next week: Our report on our visit to Anwell's solar plant in Henan

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