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Published: Friday, 7/25/2014 - Updated: 1 month ago

Port to buy back bonds invested in Xunlight

Solar cell firm termed ‘gone’ by board leader

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Deng Deng
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Aiming to protect its A-rated bond fund, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board Thursday voted to repurchase up to $600,000 worth of bonds invested in crippled solar cell manufacturer Xunlight Corp.

Once a leading light of Toledo’s fledgling solar cell industry, Xunlight closed its doors June 30 and has shown no sign it’s likely to recover. The company was founded by Xunming Deng, a University of Toledo professor of physics, and his wife, Liwei Xu, based on technology he developed while at UT.

“It’s gone,” said John Szuch, chairman of the finance committee, which presented the bond fund proposal at the board’s regular monthly meeting.

Despite Xunlight’s apparent demise, the company’s technology and its manufacturing equipment still have value and will be marketed to a new owner, said Port Board President and CEO Paul Toth, Jr.

“There’s a lot of hope that somebody will come in and buy that line as it sits and restart it and recapitalize it and try to get it back up and operating,” Mr. Toth said. “There’s no question about the technology. They just need someone that’s willing to come in and capitalize it.”

The port authority loaned $3 million in 2009 from its Northwest Ohio Bond Fund. The amount of principal still owed is $1,685,000. About $1.3 million is covered by a letter of credit from Huntington Bank, leaving the port authority’s bonds with a shortage of about $400,000, plus some interest and costs.

Port board member Bill Carroll said all domestic solar companies were hurt by an influx of cheaper solar cells from China, which he said “quartered” the price.

Mr. Toth said the state and the port authority invested in Xunlight after it successfully operated a 2-megawatt demonstration line and brought in nearly $40 million in private equity for a production line that would generate enough panels in a year to generate 25 megawatts of electricity.

He said the firm had a payroll over four years of $20 million and staff of 135.

Xunlight also was approved for $7 million in loans from the Ohio Department of Development.

Counting the $3 million loaned to Xunlight, the bond fund has outstanding loans of $72 million and reserves of $38.4 million.

The fund has 26 borrowers, of which Xunlight is the only one in default, according to a table distributed at the board’s meeting.

Board members said the buyback of the bonds from their unidentified owner was advisable to protect the bond fund’s “A” rating.

The flexible solar-panel manufacturing facility is on Nebraska Avenue. Mr. Deng was chief executive and board chairman of Xunlight until March, 2012.

In 2008, Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, toured the factory on a campaign swing through northwest Ohio. Mrs. Palin delivered a 30-minute speech inside the factory about energy.

Mr. Deng could not be reached for comment.

In other action, the board voted to:

● Appropriate $1.3 million from reserves to pay for improvements at the new Ironville Docks, including upgrades to the fire suppression system.

● Lease 34 acres on Front Street to Seneca Petroleum Corp. of Illinois to expand a tank farm it has next to the port authority’s Beazer property. The lease is projected to generate $169,065 per year for 20 years, with inflation adjustments beginning in 2016.

● Approve a bid of $121,181 from Midwest Contracting Inc. of Springfield Township to replace split-rail fences around the Toledo Express Airport parking lots with 2,100 feet of 4-foot aluminum fencing.

● Approve a bid of $101,963 to install LED street lighting on Jeep Parkway, a formerly private street that is being made a public street, at the Overland Industrial Park. The contractor is National Light & Power Inc. of Sandusky.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com,

419-724-6058, ot on

Twitter @TomFTroy.



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