On Tuesday the heavily subsidized electric vehicle battery manufacturer released its latest financial bad news, but also disclosed that it also had a potential buyer – from China. According to media reports, just as A123 reported another $82.9 million in second-quarter losses, good news also magically materialized as Wanxiang Group Corp. was announced as a new investor. A123 had reported recently to the Securities and Exchange Commission that its ability to continue as a viable company was “a going concern.”
A week and a half ago cash-poor A123 Systems, recipient of $279 million-plus in federal money and millions more from the State of Michigan, announced it would access $39 million via a stock sale to institutional investors and the release of other cash after meeting requirements related to its existing reserves.
It has been downhill ever since – all the way down to its all-time low of 75 cents per share price Tuesday (and 69 cents Thursday morning). It may be too much for even these masters of the press release cycle to overcome by creating good news out of thin air.
The top private equity raiser for troubled electric automaker Fisker Automotive, which has been the subject of investigations by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities and Exchange Commission, has reportedly removed its co-founder and CEO.
Crain’s Chicago Business, citing “a company insider,” reported Friday that Advanced Equities Inc. has reached an agreement with Dwight Badger for him to leave the investment firm. The separation follows a demand by a FINRA arbitration panel for Advanced Equities to pay $4.5 million to one of its former brokers, John Galinsky, over breach of contract claims. Galinsky brought his complaint against the firm, Badger, and his co-founding partner, Keith Daubenspeck.
Seems like every time stimulus recipient battery-maker A123 Systems suffers bad news or a stock price hit, its leaders miraculously produce great news via press release that temporarily bumps shares higher.
The latest example came yesterday, when A123 announced a “technological breakthrough” called Nanophosphate EXT that officials claim would reduce or eliminate the need for cooling systems for overheating batteries, and lower the cost of electric vehicle batteries by $600. This followed news that A123 plans to hire 400 employees (125 were laid off in November) in the coming months, thanks to new contracts it has won. Apparently Wall Street was unjustifiably non-skeptical, as heavily subsidized A123 saw its stock price shoot up from $1.04 to $1.58 yesterday. A123 was given $249.1 million in stimulus funds to help launch two battery-manufacturing plants in Michigan, and also received grants and tax credits from the state that could total more than $135 million.
Officials with the Massachusetts-based manufacturer, which received a $249.1 million grant from the Department of Energy but this week said the ability for the company to continue is a “going concern,” also announced they retained an outside adviser for “evaluation of strategic alternatives.” Translation: they’re looking to sell. If they are successful, A123 President David Vieau and his colleagues stand to reap a windfall even after they laid off 125 factory workers ("Green jobs") in November.
The Department of Transportation and NHTSA have announced that a "technical symposium" will be held on May 18th "to discuss safety considerations for electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries." In addition to NHTSA's presentations, the Department of Energy, automotive manufacturers and battery makers will participate. Given the bias of the participants, the symposium sounds like it is going to be less informational and more infomercial.
Fisker Automotive has implied that the Texas owner of one of its Karma models committed “fraud” or “malicious intent” in blaming the luxury electric vehicle for his garage fire last week, after he had to rescue his wife, mother and child from flames that spread quickly to his house.
The company’s claim could be a fatal public relations move, as the chief investigator in Fort Bend County Fire Marshal’s Office, Robert Baker, has also blamed the fire on the Karma. Fisker, recipient of $193 million (out of a $529 million total guarantee) loan backed by taxpayers via the Department of Energy, has suffered a series of publicity blunders including two recalls, a Karma breakdown at Consumer Reports’ test facility, a SEC investigation of its primary venture capital raisers, layoffs, and a cutoff of its loan by DOE.
The Obama Administration has over-stimulated the electric vehicle battery market, as companies inspired by the flow of federal stimulus support don’t have enough customers for their products.
The government promise of a coming electric car (and truck) revolution, thanks to moves such as President George W. Bush’s signature to approve a $7,500-per-electric-vehicle tax credit and Congress’s passage of the Recovery Act, instigated a buildup of capacity and inventory for batteries. Now putrid EV sales – including the newly introduced Ford Focus electric – have put their battery makers in peril, according to the Detroit Free Press.