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Solar Giant SunEdison|Files for Bankruptcy

(CN) — Renewable-energy giant SunEdison filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York on Thursday, following a tumultuous period for the company involving lawsuits, failed energy projects and speculation about its future.

SunEdison listed $20.7 billion in assets and liabilities of $16.1 billion as of Sept. 30. The bankruptcy petition does not include its two publicly traded subsidiaries, TerraForm Power and TerraForm Global.

The widely expected bankruptcy filing came in the wake of Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into the company's accounting practices. A recent SunEdison board probe found that executives delivered an "overly optimistic" financial update but made no "material misstatements," and found that no fraud had been committed.

The Missouri-based company — with solar headquarters in California's San Mateo County — took on significant debt in recent years as it went on a buying spree that included the planned acquisition of rooftop solar installer Vivint Solar for $2.2 billion this past summer. The attempt to buy Vivint came as renewable-energy stocks felt pressure from the drop in oil prices and uncertainty over the demand for alternative-energy sources.

In a statement, SunEdison CEO Ahmad Chatila said that filing for bankruptcy was necessary and will help address some of the issues that have recently plagued the company.

"The court process will allow us to right-size our balance sheet and reduce our debt, providing the opportunity to support the business going forward while focusing on our core strengths," Chatila said.

Chatila became CEO at MEMC Electronic Materials in 2009, which later bought SunEdison. The company changed its name to SunEdison four years later and began to expand rapidly, purchasing wind and energy-storage businesses and commencing projects across the world.

The Vivint deal led to litigation involving SunEdison's "yieldcos" — subsidiaries that buy projects from its parent company to fuel growth and free up cash. A lawsuit filed by billionaire David Tepper's Appaloosa Management sought to prevent TerraForm Power — one of SunEdison's yieldcos — from purchasing some Vivint assets.

Last month, Vivint aborted the cash-and-stock deal after SunEdison failed to complete the planned acquisition.

Once the Vivint deal fell through, experts predicted that SunEdison would likely pursue bankruptcy since no other options for liquidating assets were presented.

TerraForm Global, SunEdison's other yieldco, is suing the company for breach of contract claiming that SunEdison misappropriated $231 million of TerraForm Global's cash.

SunEdison said Thursday it had secured $300 million in new financing from lenders to support the company's operations during bankruptcy. The infusion of cash is subject to court approval.

Trading of the company's shares was halted after the stock hit 34 cents on the New York Stock Exchange. Less than a year ago, SunEdison stock traded at $33.44.

Meanwhile, shares of industry rivals First Solar and SolarCity rose at the end of trading Thursday, with the latter up 2.9 percent.

SunEdison's primary shareholders include OppenheimerFunds with a 11.9 percent stake, BlackRock at 6.5 percent, Vanguard with 6.4 percent and Adage Capital Partners with a 5.4 percent stake, according to court documents.

Hedge Fund Greenlight Capital shedded most of its stake in SunEdison earlier this week. The hedge fund, which is run by David Einhorn, won a board seat at SunEdison earlier this year.

Chatila said the bankruptcy "will facilitate our continued work towards transforming the company into a more streamlined and efficient operator, shedding non-core assets as well as taking other steps to help us get the most value out of our technological and intellectual property," Chatila said.

SunEdison filed its petition in the Southern District of New York.

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