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Tata BP Solar venture in a limbo as UK partner wants to exit solar business

According to reports, amid news oozing out over British Petroleum’s intention to quit the solar business worldwide, a question has arisen as to what will happen to the Indian joint venture, Tata BP Solar Ltd.

Quoting a letter from Mr Mike Petrucci, BP Solar’s Chief Executive Officer to the staff, a Bloomberg report today said that BP Solar will wind itself down. The decision has been attributed to the fact that the business has become “unprofitable”, thanks to a steep fall in global solar panel prices — which have halved in the last one year.

BP’s decision comes as no surprise, as talk about its imminent exit has been around ever since it announced the closure of its plant at Frederick, Maryland, in July. BP Solar had been on the downswing since 2009, when it was hit by an unexpected stagnation in the Spanish solar industry.

The question in India is, what will happen to Tata BP Solar — a two-decade-old joint venture. Tata BP Solar too is facing the heat of global glut of solar panels and its CEO, Mr K. Subramanya, told Business Line recently that the plant had been lying almost shut owing to lack of orders. While giving no indication of what the Tatas would do, he had said that BP’s outlook of the solar business was “very different” than what it was when the joint venture was formed.

The talk abuzz in the solar industry is that Tata Power would takeover BP’s 51 per cent in the joint venture. When reached for a comment, the company’s Corporate Communications said, “The company does not respond to market rumours and would not like to comment on this further.”

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