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One-time solar

darling reduced to penny stock status

By Mary E. Arata

DEVENS — It’s been a cold, lifeless summer at the Evergreen Solar factory on Devens.

Now comes word that the Marlboro-based solar panel manufacturer is chilling out further with voluntary Chapter 11 debt restructuring bankruptcy filing that verges on rigor mortis.

The news came Monday from federal bankruptcy court in Delaware. It’s the latest blow to Evergreen Solar as the former alternative energy darling struggles to recover from a series of body blows.

In March, the last 800 employees streamed from the Devens plant with those jobs outsourced to Wuhan, China. On Monday, it was also announced that 65 employees will be cut from the company’s European and US workforce, including a suspension of operations at Evergreen’s Midland, Michigan plant.

The Massachusetts plant closure prompted outrage as the company was once the centerpiece of the Patrick Administration’s “green energy” push. Evergreen benefited from millions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives to build its 450,000-square-foot factory in Devens.

The factory itself was at the epicenter of a two-year battle with residential neighbors in Harvard who struggled with Evergreen Solar for relief from the round-the-clock din produced by the then-humming plant.

At times over the past year, the company struggled to keep its head above water with the NASDAQ stock exchange, which requires a value of at least $1 a share for listings. On Monday, the stock was trading down more than 60 percent of its value at just 16 cents a share.

Forbes Magazine wrote on Monday that it “seems likely” the stocks will expire worthless. The telltale warnings were included in the company’s press release.

“Based upon the estimated value of the company’s assets, the assets are expected to be insufficient to satisfy all its obligations to its creditors,” reads the company press release. “Accordingly, it is expected that no distributions will be made to holders of common stock and the common stock will be extinguished upon consummation of the Chapter 11 plan.”

Evergreen has indicated that it’s brokered a deal to restructure its debt with holders of more than 70 percent of its outstanding 13-percent convertible senior secured notes through a vehicle called ES Purchaser, LLC, which will serve as a “stalking horse” for potential partial or total asset purchases or any possibly anonymous takeover talks. As part of its new survival plan, Evergreen Solar will sell off its String Ribbon silicon wafer technology business assets.

“Chapter 11 will provide Evergreen Solar with the ability to maximize returns for our stakeholders through the proposed sale process,” said Evergreen Solar CEO Michael El-Hillow. “Importantly, we expect to continue our technology development without interruption during Chapter 11 and the sale process. Day-to-day operations will go on as usual as employees carry out their responsibilities and we will continue to pay our suppliers and vendors for goods and services rendered during this period.”

ESLR closed Monday down 57 percent or 24 cents a share to rest at 18 cents a share. Three years ago, the stock was selling at $60 a share.

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