(Bloomberg) -- A US company has become the world’s most valuable solar manufacturer for the first time since 2018, as Chinese rivals suffer from a profit-slashing price war and an onslaught of trade barriers erected by Washington.

First Solar Inc. gained 1.5% Friday to end trading with a market capitalization of $21.15 billion. The move higher allowed the Arizona-based company to overtake Sungrow Power Supply Co., which saw its shares fall 4.2% Friday in Shenzhen to put its value at about $20.85 billion.

It’s the first time since 2018 a Chinese company hasn’t been the most valuable solar equipment maker. The country dominates global production of panels, and controls more than 80% in every step of the supply chain.

But China’s build-up of factories has come at a cost as capacity has surpassed global demand, leading to falling prices and shrinking profit margins. Longi Green Energy Technology Co., another leading Chinese manufacturer, posted a net loss of 2.35 billion yuan ($325 million) in the first quarter after netting a profit of 3.64 billion yuan the same period of 2023.

China’s solar giants also are increasingly finding themselves in geopolitical crosshairs, with leaders from the US and Germany criticizing their overcapacity for stymieing the development of supply chains in other parts of the world. President Joe Biden this week announced higher tariffs on Chinese solar panels and other moves designed to bolster US manufacturers.

First Solar, the biggest US panel manufacturer, is a prime beneficiary of those actions. It sells its panels in the US, where prices are almost triple the global average because of tariffs against Chinese products. And its expansion plans will be subsidized by the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act. 

Of course, market capitalization is just one way to measure companies. By most other metrics, including the vital one of being able to produce enough clean energy to fight climate change, First Solar still has a way to go to catch up with its Chinese counterparts. It produced 12 gigawatts of panels in 2023, compared to 79 gigawatts for Shanghai-based Jinko Solar Co. 

First Solar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

--With assistance from Will Wade.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.