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Article from GigaOm.

Chinese auto tech behemoth Wanxiang has won the bidding process in an auction to buy the assets of bankrupt battery maker A123 Systems. On Sunday the companies announced that Wanxiang plans to acquire most of the assets of A123 for $256.6 million. It’s news that could be a bit controversial, given A123 received a $132 million grant from the U.S. government, and could now be owned by a Chinese company.

The winning bid beat out Johnson Control’s bid to acquire A123′s automotive division. Johnson Controls previously had offered to buy the automotive division and two factories for $125 million.

One of the reasons Wanxiang’s offer to buy up A123 had been controversial was because A123 had some U.S. military contracts, which critics didn’t want to see in the hands of a Chinese company. But A123 decided to sell off its government business, including all its U.S. military contracts, to Illinois-based company Navitas Systems, for $2.25 million. Wanxiang acquired the rest of the assets including the grid storage business.

We’ll see if that move silences politician critics like U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). The deal still has to be approved by the bankruptcy court as well as the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States (CIFIUS).

If approved, the future of A123 System’s lithium ion battery tech will fittingly be owned by a Chinese auto giant, as China is increasingly becoming one of the most important markets for electric vehicles. Money from Chinese investors, conglomerates, cities and the government, continues to drive a significant amount of the future of next-generation electric car technology.

The deal also provides a future for A123′s technology, which had a promising beginning, but had suffered a series of setbacks in 2012. Venture-backed A123 held the largest IPO in 2009, raising some $371 million, and was trading at over $20 per share when it started trading. A123 also raised more than $350 million from private investors when it was still a startup.

Yet in recent months, it suffered from manufacturing problems, and also had only a handful of customers for its premium batteries. The company had been losing boat loads of money for years.

The Wanxiang deal still won’t make back enough to cover its debts. A123 says:

Because the total purchase price for A123’s assets would be less than the total amount owed to creditors, the Company does not anticipate any recoveries for its current shareholders and believes its stock to have no value.

Now that the A123 bankruptcy is moving forward, it will be interesting to see what Fisker Automotive, one of A123′s prime customers, will do. Fisker had told the media that it is waiting for the results of the A123 auction before it starts back up assembling its Karma cars.

This isn’t Wanxiang’s first cleantech and clean energy acquisition — it’s actually its fifth in 2012, says the company in a release. Wanxiang has been aggressively acquiring under valued American cleantech and clean energy companies.

Read more here.

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Here is some interresting thoughts from CNET.

“With investors getting smarter and start-ups getting bought, the mood is brightening in green tech. But the high-profile companies seeking to go public this year have some industry watchers talking bubbles.

For proof, investors point to the spate of planned initial public offerings, including electric car maker Tesla Motors, solar company Solyndra, and biofuels maker Codexis. Smart-grid company Silver Spring Networks and biofuels maker Amyris are rumored to be on deck.

Long-term trends may favor innovative green companies, as concerns about energy resources and the environment grow. But that doesn’t mean this year’s leading companies can navigate the complex regulatory and financial environment to become successful companies, said Jack Robinson, founder of Winslow Management, which focuses on environmentally oriented public companies.

“Valuations seem to be ahead of themselves,” Robinson said. “Some of the people [in venture-backed green-tech companies] don’t have the history and don’t understand the pitfalls that need to be addressed from a technology, market, regulatory, and political point of view.”

An example of a company he considers highly valued is lithium ion battery maker A123 Systems, which went public last September. In addition to raising $371 million, it raised the hopes of many other young energy companies.

Investor Rob Day of Black Coral Capital did an analysis of four recent IPO filings in the green-tech area and was concerned when he found that their unofficial revenue numbers were far below the amount of money put into them.

Nonetheless, even early misfires don’t mean investors should write off the whole sector. The high-profile companies that have filed to go public aren’t the best indicators of what’s to come as many other companies could raise funding through private equity sources, rather than tapping the public stock market, Day argued.

“My worry is that if these IPOs are perceived later on this year as having been unsuccessful, it’ll once again set back the entire clean tech venture industry, because of the example it sets in terms of lack of (financial) exits,” he wrote.

Netscape moment ahead?
Even with the worries over financial returns for investors, there’s a reason that IPO hopefuls have gotten as far as they have. It’s widely recognized that Tesla Motors and Solyndra, for example, have developed innovative technologies. Tesla’s $109,000 Roadster has become a darling among the well-heeled and its planned Model S sedan, priced at about $57,000 before tax credits, has legions of fans even though it won’t be built for two more years.

Solyndra has developed a solar collector designed specifically for flat commercial rooftops. In its first installations, the company touts how quickly these collectors, which use curved thin-film solar cells, can be installed, which brings down the overall system cost.

As with many green-tech upstarts, though, both companies have big-time challenges. Solyndra and Tesla borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy to build manufacturing facilities and they face powerful competition, in the form of incumbent automakers and low-cost Chinese solar panel producers.”

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Here is an article from earth2tech.

“Will 2010 be the year for greentech IPOs? When lithium ion battery maker A123Systems successfully debuted on the Nasdaq back in September, there was much speculation that the move would ready the market for a following of greentech IPOs. The notion seemed over-enthusiastic then, but three months later solar power startup Solyndra has registered for an IPO, which will likely happen in 2010, and we’ve heard rumors that Tesla is plugging away at its S-1 (Reuters also reported an upcoming Tesla IPO).

Then there’s Silver Spring Networks, which just raised $100 million and looks like it’s getting to that stage where it’s too big to be acquired but will need more financing to compete in the smart grid infrastructure market. Silver Spring isn’t commenting on any IPO rumors, but it is clearly one of the best candidates in the greentech world. If these three — Solyndra, Silver Spring and Tesla — do go public in 2010, it’ll make investor Steve Westly look like a pretty solid market forecaster — he predicted in May that these three would go public by early 2010 and he’s already good for one out of the three.

Out of any of the venture capital investment sectors, greentech has the most bullish outlook in 2010 from a VC standpoint. According the National Venture Capital Association, more than half of a group of venture capitalists surveyed predicted that clean technology would see higher investment levels in 2010. According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, venture capital investing in cleantech already rebounded sharply in the third quarter of 2009 to $898 million in 57 deals, up from $475 million in 49 deals in the second quarter of 2009.

The IPO market in general is also looking better to VCs. VCs surveyed by the NVCA are predicting “a mild improvement” in the number of venture-backed IPOs overall in 2010, with 74 percent of respondents saying they think there will be more than 20 IPOs in 2010. However, according to this Reuters article, greentech companies’ offerings represented only a small portion of the overall U.S. IPO market in 2009, ranking fifth by dollars raised in 2009 in the IPO market, and accountng for 8.5 percent of issuance by companies going public in 2009.”

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Here is a good summary from Shai Goldman on top events in the VC and tech industry of 2009.

“Given that we are just about at year-end, I wanted to provide a recap of some of the most memorable moments that took place in the venture capital and technology ecosystem.  Below is a list of  the 10 most important events:

First VC backed technology IPO –  OpenTable goes public at $20/share on May 21st.

First VC backed acquisition (above $500M) – Pure Digital acquired by Cisco for $590M.

First VC backed cleantech IPO – A123 goes public at $17/share on September 23rd.

Khosla Ventures raises $1.1B – in 2009 most VC funds were shrinking in size, yet Khosla Ventures was able to raise $1.1B, this event was a sign that Limited Partners (L.P.s) we actively seeking investment opportunities in the VC sector – September 1st.

Tesla Motors receives $465M from the D.O.E – First technology company to receive a loan guaranty – June 23rd.

Twitter raises a $100M VC round of financing – at a time when there are questions about the consumer internet sector, this funding provided some positive support that $ can be made in the sector – September 25th.

NASDAQ closes above 2,000 – August 3rd- the previous time NASDAQ was above 2,000 was September 30, 2008.

Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 10,000 – October 14th – the previous time the Dow was above 10,000 was October 2, 2008.

Apple App Store gets more that 100,000 applications published – November 4th – as you may recall the App Store launched on July 10, 2008 and the creation of the iPhone and App Store has created opportunities for both VCs and Startups to make $$.

Facebook Connect is widely adopted by 60M users and 80K sites – the utilization of Facebook Connect has allowed startup companies a way to reduce the time / effort for their users to sign up for a particular service.”

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Sounds to me like Tesla is going public. Here is some coverage on the topic from The GreenBeat blog at WSJ Online.

“Rumors are swirling today that Tesla Motors is seriously considering an initial public offering sometime soon. The talk has been tracked to two anonymous sources, who say the six-year-old company could cash in big on the battery-powered car trend before electric and hybrid models from companies like General Motors, Mitsubishi and Nissan make it to market.

Tesla has officially denied the prediction, calling the IPO chatter “rumor and speculation.” That said, going public in 2010 would give the San Carlos, Calif. company several distinct advantages. First, it would solidify its position as the electric car player to watch. It’s already been casually anointed as the leader by industry observers and the Department of Energy, which granted it $465 million in stimulus funds in its first round of low-interest loans for advanced transportation projects. Second, it could use the sale to raise money to get its hotly anticipated Model S sedan out the door by its 2011 due date.

Tesla is one of several cleantech companies anticipated to go public as soon as next year. When A123Systems shocked the market with its blockbuster IPO in late Sepember (its share price jumped 50 percent on opening day), many analysts, including the Cleantech Group, said that the biggest public offerings in 2010 will probably come out of the green sector. In addition to Tesla, solar system maker Solyndra — which received $535 million in loan guarantees from the DOE in March — and smart grid communications provider Silver Spring Networks have also been named as likely candidates.”

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GigaOm also covers this topic saying:

“Last Friday, buzz about an imminent IPO for electric car startup Tesla Motors hit the Interwebs, courtesy of two anonymous sources familiar with the plans who spoke with Reuters. As in several previous stories about its possible plans for a public offering, the company has declined to comment.

But if and when Tesla goes through with its long-discussed goal of going public, it could be the biggest and possibly the first public offering for a U.S. car company since Ford Motor’s IPO more than 50 years ago. The event will also offer a glimpse at the role IPOs will play in the nascent green car market — is the classic venture capital model (invest early and find a big exit in the form of an acquisition or an IPO) viable for this sector, or will a green-car IPO be more about feeding big capital needs and branding?

Hopes for a Google-like moneymaker in cleantech (Google took only $25 million in venture capital to make millionaires of 1,000 employees and billionaires of its two co-founders in a wildly successful IPO) have already started to fade for some in the sector. Stephan Dolezalek, managing director of VantagePoint Venture Partners, which has invested in Tesla, told Reuters in September that public offerings now serve more as “financing events” for alternative energy and other cleantech startups rather than a way for investors and founders to cash in on equity.”

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I think that we last week saw a start of a new boom, A123 soured on the IPO, and many candidates are waiting in line. Here is piece on the issue from Reuters.

“SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 24 (Reuters) – A 50 percent leap in the shares of lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems Inc (AONE.O) on their first day of trading looks likely to jumpstart the market for clean-tech share offerings.

The Watertown, Mass.-based A123 Systems is now worth over $1.9 billion, a striking valuation for a company that has yet to make a profit and still needs large-scale commercialization.

Industry executives and experts said A123’s success shows investors have an appetite for green technology companies that lose money, but have tremendous potential.

So the stock’s first day jump, which is the second-best performance for a debut stock in 2009, should encourage more venture capital-backed clean technology companies to go public, they added.

“This is an interesting time for the market because there are several (clean-tech) companies that have been growing very nicely,” said Faysal Sohail, managing director of venture fund CMEA Capital, which is an investor in A123.

Sohail declined to comment specifically on A123, but said the whole environment is creating opportunities for clean-tech companies and expects 2010 to be a busy year for green IPOs.

“They are real companies with substantial revenue and growing at a very fast clip,” he said.

CMEA Capital also backs companies such as Silicon Valley solar manufacturer Solyndra and biofuel company Codexis, which many see as likely candidates for the IPO market.

Other green companies deemed ripe for an IPO include smart grid network company Silver Spring Networks, electric carmaker Tesla Motors and solar thermal company BrightSource Energy.”

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Here is some optimistic news on the economic crisis blues – Steve Westly goes out on a limb and predicts some IPO´s on the CleanTech sector horizon.

The story is by way of Reuters.

“Initial public offerings as of late have been about as common as celebratory banquets for Wall Street bankers. Last week, however, after some nine months of an IPO drought, two venture-backed startups, software maker SolarWinds and online restaurant reservation system OpenTable, broke the mold and went public. Neither was a cleantech firm, but the news was a positive sign for cleantech investor Steve Westly, managing partner of Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture firm The Westly Group. Westly tells us he sees a changing appetite for companies going public, and he predicts that venture-backed cleantech IPOs will happen by early 2010.

“I’ll go out on a limb -– Tesla, Silver Spring Networks, and possibly Solyndra will go public by the first quarter of next year,” he said in an interview. “I say this because all three of these companies in 2008 did between $10 million and $15 million in revenue, and in 2009 they will do over $150 million. When a company has 10x growth, that is a company you can take public.” The Westly Group has invested about $50 million into cleantech startups, including some $5 million in electric car maker Tesla. It has not backed smart grid startup Silver Spring Networks nor thin-film solar manufacturer Solyndra.”

The article concludes:

“Stephen Simko, solar analyst for Morningstar, still thinks it will be difficult for a solar company to IPO in this market. Solar panel supply far outstrips demand today, and financing for projects is difficult to access. “If lending thaws and the U.S. solar market starts to rise that will lead to the conditions necessary for companies to improve profit and that might lead to IPOs,” he said. “But only the best of breed will be considered.” Solyndra declined to comment for this article.

Of course, it might not be any of these three startups that make headlines as the first cleantech IPO after the drought. First Wind, a wind energy developer, and lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems both filed for IPOs in late 2008. While the filings don’t necessarily mean they will go public, it at least means executives at the firms have their eyes on that prize.”

Read the full article here.

Others covering this story includes: Earth2Teach and Business Insider.

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