Last weekend, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge announced the name of the Bundesliga champions’ new premium partner - Yingli Solar, a leading Chinese energy firm. The firm’s founder plans to retire to Bavaria.
Bayern Munich are the Bundesliga champions
One thing that can’t be said about Bayern Munich's new sponsor is that the firm is only thinking about business. The founder of Yingli Solar, Miao Liansheng, never misses an occasion to remind people he is a huge sports fan.
"I like basketball," the millionaire says. "I play an hour and a half every afternoon. 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." Conveniently, Yingli's European HQ is located in Munich.
Miao, a pioneer of China’s booming solar energy sector, studied economics in Beijing. He then was a soldier for 14 years before trying his luck in the building sector and in cosmetics. He founded Yingli Green Energy 13 years ago in his hometown Baoding, in the north of China. It is now the second solar energy firm in the whole country.
Photovoltaics made in China cost a third less than those made in Germany
As a boss, Miao belongs to the old school. His employees – 9,000 across the world – wear uniforms and every morning they have go for a compulsory run and do tai chi exercises. Before the workday begins, they have to shout out "green energy is the future" in unison.
Almost all of the company's modules are intended for export – 60 percent go to Germany. Photovoltaics made in China cost about a third less than those made in Germany, not least because of the Chinese government’s subsidies for green energy.
This has given rise to some criticism in Germany, but Miao rejects it straight out. "It's very normal," he says. "Dumping accusations don’t stop me from buying German goods. This year again I have ordered machines and raw materials from Germany.
Yingli Solar was one of the sponsors at last year's World Cup in South Africa
"My company is transparent, including with regard to subsidies from the state. We are a private firm and we’re listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Our only secret is that Chinese firms have a passionate approach. We keep bringing out technical innovations. Thus, we reduce our costs and that’s how we survive."
Plans to retire to Bavaria
Yingli recently opened a polysilicon factory in order to become less dependent on imports. The company has otherwise mainly bought its raw materials from Germany, especially Wacker Chemie in Munich.
Miao Liansheng has found a spot on Lake Tegern where he plans to buy a house and retire
Yingli advertized at the World Cup in South Africa and was also the first Chinese company to be seen in Germany. When his company went public, Miao hit the headlines for turning up to work without a tie – an action that was very out of character.
Miao loves Germany. The 100,000 pigs on the farm that he keeps as a hobby came from Germany for instance. And he has big plans for the future.
"I love my home. But when I retire I am moving to Bavaria. I like Munich and I have discovered a spot on Lake Tegern that I find wonderfully calm. I want to buy a house there." Then he'll be able to watch all of Bayern Munich's games.
Author: Astrid Freyeisen/act
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein