The share price of a leading Chinese manufacturer of solar panels plunged by almost half Wednesday and a second company warned it might face trouble paying its debts.
Shares in Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd., a unit of Beijing-based Hanergy Holding Group, fell 47 percent on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Trading was halted and the company made no immediate public comment on the possible reason for the plunge.
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Hanergy, which also has investments in wind and hydro power, had been a success story in a Chinese solar industry battered by price-cutting wars and financial problems. Its share price had more than doubled since February, prompting concern it might be rising too fast.
Hanergy's rise made its founder, Li Hejun, one of China's richest entrepreneurs with a net worth estimated at $20 billion. It was unclear how much that fortune might be reduced by Wednesday's collapse in the share price of the Hong Kong-traded unit.
Li founded the company in 1994 to build hydropower projects and later shifted emphasis in 2009 to solar power. It acquired Germany's Solibro and California's MiaSole in 2012 and said it wanted to become a leader in "thin-film" solar panels that can be used as tinted windows on buildings or integrated into building materials for use on rooftops.
Also this week, a second solar panel maker, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., said in a filing with U.S. securities regulators that its high debt level might have "significant consequences" for its operations. It said it could not assure investors it would generate adequate cash flow to pay its debts.
Yingli issued a separate statement later saying that comment had been misinterpreted in some news coverage. The company's chairman and CEO, Miao Liansheng, said in the statement it should be able to meet its repayment obligations.