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Chinese Solar Firms Compete for German Market on Soccer Field

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SPORTS, ENERGY...SOMETHING
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A report from Bloomberg this morning takes a look at how Chinese solar companies are "ramping up advertising to oust local suppliers from Europe’s biggest power market," by way of the soccer field (or football pitch, depending on where you're reading this).

Write Stefan Nicola and Ben Sills:

China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co., the world’s largest solar-panel maker, tomorrow will put its name on jerseys of 1899 Hoffenheim’s players for their opening game in the Bundesliga, the most profitable soccer league. Baoding-based Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. this year began backing Bayern Munich, the country’s most successful club, which aims to unseat champion Borussia Dortmund, sponsored by German panel maker Q-Cells SE.

“It’s an unprecedented marketing push,” Pascal Schulte, senior consultant at the Sport+Markt, a sports marketing research firm in Cologne, said in an interview. “I can’t remember so many companies from a single industry, some of which many people hadn’t even heard of, entering the Bundesliga with such force in such a short period of time.”



Germans spent roughly $6.7 billion on solar panels last year, and the country's plan to altogether discontinue the use of nuclear power by 2022 makes alternative energy a necessity, not the upper-upper middle class luxury it is considered to be in many parts of the developed world.

The domestic solar industry is scrabbling to maintain market share with its own series of sponsorships, like the aforementioned Q-Cells/Borussia Dortmund deal, and Bonn-based Solarworld, which backs Cologne, suddenly going head-to-head with competitors like Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. and Shangrao, China's JinkoSolar Holding.

“It’s an open race,” one sports consultant told Nicola and Sills. "I expect more companies from the solar sector to enter soccer sponsoring over the coming months.”

Ambitious as the new expansion push by Chinese solar companies may appear, German television broadcaster Deutsche Welle points out that at least one new entrant is also in it for the love of the game.

I’m a big Bayern Munich fan. I’m going on a business trip to Germany soon and I'll be definitely watching a Bayern match," Miao Liansheng, the founder, CEO, and chairman of Yingli Solar, told Deutsche Welle's Astrid Freyeisen.

"Miao loves Germany," Freyeisen explains. "The 100,000 pigs on the farm that he keeps as a hobby came from Germany for instance."

"And," she notes, "he has big plans for the future."

Those plans happen to be personal, not professional.

"I love my home. But when I retire I am moving to Bavaria," chairman Miao says. "I like Munich and I have discovered a spot on Lake Tegern that I find wonderfully calm. I want to buy a house there."

Should Miao's plan hit a bump in the road, he can always relocate to Guangdong -- where, as it was recently revealed, an exact, brick-by-brick replica of the Austrian town of Hallstatt is currently taking shape:

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.
TAGS:  SOLAR, CHINA, ENERGY, OIL, SOCCER, NUCLEAR, GERMANY    SOURCE:   Bloomberg

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