One of India’s leading solar-module producers—Waaree Energies Ltd—was all set to offer institutional and retail investors the opportunity to own a piece of the company. Until 6 October.
That day, the 32-year-old family-owned business, which competes against large corporate houses like the Adani Group and the Tata Group, sent a press release announcing a private fundraise of Rs 1,000 crore (US$121 million).
Consequently, the company decided to cancel its Rs 1,500 crore (US$182 million) initial public offering (IPO)—a year after setting it in motion.
This was surprising for more reasons than one. Waaree, and the solar-panel industry, have a lot going for it.
Sure, the stock market is not quite on a tear as it was in 2021, when 63 companies went public and raised Rs 1.2 lakh crore Rs 1.2 lakh crore The Economic Times 2021: A blockbuster year for public offers Read more (~US$14.5 billion)—the highest ever. But flotations flotations The Economic Times A Rs 12,000cr IPO fest is coming to Dalaal Street Read more worth one-tenth of that are still reportedly in the offing.
More importantly, solar manufacturers in India have never had it so good. Since April, the government has been imposing a 40% basic customs duty (BCD) on imported solar modules and 25% on solar cells that are made into modules. (The BCD replaced a nearly 15% safeguard duty on imports.)
And from October, utility-scale solar farms, as well as rooftop-solar projects and those catering directly to industrial consumers, can only buy modules from government-approved manufacturers.
With these moves, India has dealt a body blow to global competitors who have debilitated Indian module makers for years. India imports over 80% of its solar-module requirements, mainly from China. But in a couple of quarters, the trend is likely to reverse.
“Maybe 85%, if not 100%, of the market will be controlled by Indian module companies,” says a senior executive of a rooftop-solar contractor. They and a few others quoted in the story did not want to be identified as they were either not authorised to speak to the media or did not want to be seen talking about their competition.
What’s more, earlier in 2022, the government increased the allocation for solar manufacturing under the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme by more than 5X to Rs 24,000 crore (~US$3 billion).
So, even with the country’s manufacturing push, why did Waaree choose not to cash in on the momentum by listing on the bourses? “Investors were not comfortable with our speed of expansion,” says Hitesh Mehta, chief financial officer and director of Waaree.