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Made in Mexico Good Enough for SunPower to Win Tariff Exemption

Sept. 19, 2018
Company gains advantage over Chinese competitors with ruling.

SunPower Corp. (IW 500/390), the second-biggest U.S. solar manufacturer, won’t have to pay import tariffs on the panels it makes in factories outside the country.

The company was granted an exclusion from the U.S. tariffs on imported solar panels President Donald Trump imposed earlier this year, according to a statement Tuesday from San Jose, California-based SunPower. The shares jumped the most in 10 months.

SunPower makes panels mostly in Mexico and Malaysia, and had argued that its products don’t pose the same threat to U.S. manufacturers as the Chinese producers that dominate the industry with lower-cost, less-efficient products. Avoiding the 30% duty will give the company an advantage over rivals that have to incorporate it into their pricing.

“This exclusion took a long time to get but it’s completely logical,” said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc. “SunPower has a high-efficiency product that gets a pricing premium. They should not have been included.”

The decision from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is set to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register.

SunPower climbed 15% to $7.55 at the close in New York, the most since Nov. 2.

Chinese-made panels will be assessed an extra 10% duty when they enter the U.S. market, the Trump Administration said Tuesday. That’s on top of the 30% levied on all imported panels.

“This will support U.S. solar technology leadership,” SunPower Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said in the statement.

By Christopher Martin

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