SunEdison Inc. (NYSE: SUNE) filed for bankruptcy protection after a two-year, $3.1 billion acquisition binge that drove its debt to unmanageable levels and sent investors running for the exits. Starting in 2014, the Maryland Heights, Missouri-based clean-energy giant began buying up wind and solar projects on every continent except Antarctica.
The purpose was to meet growth targets needed for dividends, and at first the market responded positively, driving the shares to a peak of $32.
But after the company announced plans to purchase Vivint Solar Inc. (NYSE: VSLR) in July at a 52 percent premium, investors started questioning the business model. At $2.2 billion, it was SunEdison’s biggest deal to date. Furthermore, Vivint installs rooftop solar systems, a very different market from SunEdison’s other acquisitions -- mainly big, utility-scale power plants.
The transaction was delayed, renegotiated down to $1.9 billion and finally canceled in March. When SunEdison lost the financing to back the deal because of its initial failure to file an annual earnings report, the company couldn’t close the sale, leaving analysts wondering whether a lawsuit would drive it into bankruptcy.
By Thursday’s Chapter 11 filing in Manhattan bankruptcy court, the shares were trading at about 34 cents.