NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The big news today is that IKEA is selling solar panels... in England.
That should not be big news.
has long sold solar panels in the U.S. So has
That may not be even the biggest news about IKEA. The bigger news may be that IKEA is shipping $1,000 refugee shelters to Syria in flat packs that limit the ability of President Assad's regime to use human suffering as a weapon against neighbors Turkey and Jordan.
An even bigger finance story may be that founder Ingvar Kamprad, 87, has set things up to maintain his family's control over the $12 billion enterprise and put his youngest son, 44-year old Mathias, into the presidency of the group while also having him run
, which extends the family's reach into insurance and finance.
Through a complex, interlocking set of international companies that are as complicated as any set of IKEA instructions, Ingvar has done what Sam Walton only dreamed of doing -- passing his work intact onto the next generation. That's a slick trick.
The solar deal is a pretty slick trick, too.
The company supplying IKEA, Hanergy Group, is practically unknown to Americans, but according to industry publisher
, it's the next big thing.
is a lot like IKEA itself, in that it's privately held and vertically integrated. Its profits come from running hydroelectric dams, with 131 megawatts of power installed, and unlike nearly every other Chinese solar player, Hanergy has focused on Copper, Indium, Gallium Selenide, or CIGS, flat panels.
, the U.S. solar leader -- which uses a competing technology called cadmium telluride, or CdT, for its flat panels, Hanergy has until now focused on utility-scale projects, funded by the Chinese government. The IKEA deal is its first move into consumer markets.
Hanergy's strategy has been to pick up bleeding-edge western companies like over-ripe fruit, once they run out of venture capital, with help from Chinese government funding based on its hydroelectric cash flow.
Hanergy first got into CIGS by buying MiaSole, a U.S. company, for $30 million last year,
according to Greentech Media,
after MiaSole blew through $500 million in venture funding to develop its technology.