Solar-panel maker RenaSola to open plant in Japan

Chinese maker enters partnership with Japanese electronics supplier Vitec

SAN FRANCISCO — Chinese solar-panel maker ReneSola Ltd. gained a foothold in Japan this week, partnering with Japanese electronics trading company Vitec Co. Ltd. to open a plant there.


U.S.-listed shares of ReneSola SOL +1.96% rose 1%, one of the few PV-cell makers to be in the black on Thursday.

The partnership is expected to start production in April under the name Vitec Global Solar, according to reports.

Financial and other details were not disclosed. Vitec, with offices in Japan, elsewhere in Asia, and California, mainly supplies semi-conductors and other electronic components.

The partnership would focus on high-quality, cost-competitive solar panels for industrial and residential markets.

Japan has embraced solar power after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster made electricity more scarce and more expensive in the country.

ReneSola has been somewhat of a laggard among solar-panel makers, with shares up 33% in the past 12 months and down 22% in the past three months.

Meanwhile, shares of U.S. solar-panel maker First Solar Inc. FSLR +0.09% declined 1.1%. Shares of Canadian Solar Inc. CSIQ -0.64% -- which makes most of its panels in China -- were down 1%.

First Solar is expected to report fourth-quarter results Tuesday. Analysts at Cowen and Co. expect the solar-panel maker to report earnings of 99 cents a share on revenue of $965 million. The analysts, led by Robert Stone, rate First Solar shares "market perform."

The company is likely to provide limited guidance on Tuesday, waiting for an analyst day in March to provide more extensive comment of full-year 2014 expectations and longer-term outlook, the Cowen analysts added.

Among solar-panel makers, Cowen analysts' top picks have been SunPower Corp. SPWR +1.89% , Real Goods Solar Inc. RSOL -0.78% , and Trina Solar Ltd. TSL +0.13%

On Thursday, shares of SunPower retreated 0.9%, while Real Goods Solar shares were off 1%. U.S.-listed shares of Trina Solar fared a bit better, off 0.1%.

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