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Tesla woes send Panasonic’s US solar cells to PH

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LOS ANGELES/TOKYO (Reuters) – Most of the solar cells made by Panasonic at Tesla, Inc.’s New York manufacturing plant are being purchased by H.R.D.

Singapore’s factories in the Philippines, a chief supplier of panels to Japanese eco-homebuilder Ichijo Co. Ltd., two sources familiar with the arrangement said.

Reuters reported on May 15 that Panasonic planned to ship most cells from the plant overseas, instead of selling them to Tesla for its trademark Solar Roof as initially intended, because of low demand from Tesla and a trade loophole that had fired up new foreign interest. That loophole allows companies outside the United States to ship solar panels into America duty-free provided the panels are made with US-built cells.

Until now, the identity of the buyer of the Panasonic cells, which Panasonic is producing at the Tesla facility under an agreement struck in 2016, has not been published.

The demand for US solar cells abroad is striking because there are very few American producers and the components are typically far cheaper when sourced in Asia, reflecting the lengths to which some companies would go to sidestep President Donald Trump’s tariffs on solar imports. It was unclear what H.R.D. and Ichijo’s plans were for the Panasonic cells.

The export of the cells also underscores the depths of Tesla’s troubles in the US solar business, which the electric car maker acquired in 2016 with its $2.6- billion purchase of SolarCity, but which has been shrinking since.

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