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Sale of A123 Systems to Chinese Gets Final U.S. Approval

A123 logoA123 Systems has received approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for the controversial bankruptcy sale of most of its taxpayer-funded technology and assets to China-based Wanxiang, according to a statement released by subsidiary Wanxiang America Corp.

The authorization was the final major hurdle needed to complete the transaction. A123 had been granted $249 million to refurbish two plants in Michigan for battery production, another $30 million as a subcontractor for another stimulus-funded wind energy storage project, and various other grants and contracts by state and federal governments. But A123’s executives, while making sure their own bank accounts were well-taken care of, ran the company into the ground and now Wanxiang will reap whatever technology value is left, for cheap.

Chinese Company Wins Auction for Taxpayer-Backed A123 Systems

A123 logoThe auction for the assets and business of green stimulus recipient A123 Systems has been won by Chinese auto parts manufacturer Wanxiang Group, which aggressively sought the electric vehicle battery maker at least since the summer.

The successful bid – reported to be about $260 million – follows weeks of warnings by the U.S. government, congressmen and a group of former military and other leaders that transfer of the Massachusetts-based company would compromise American jobs, technology and security. The auction attempts to address some of those concerns, as Wanxiang was not awarded any of A123’s contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense. Instead the company’s “government business,” including all its military contracts, was awarded to Illinois-based Navitas Systems.

Chinese Back in the Picture to Buy Bankrupt A123 Systems

A123 logoIs it back to China for Obama-boosted battery maker A123 Systems?

In August the Massachusetts stimulus recipient (more than $279 million, plus a bundle of other government contracts) announced that Wanxiang Group would infuse the failing company with quick cash as part of a plan to assume as much as 80-percent ownership. A barrage of questions and concerns followed – most prominently from Republican Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa) and John Thune (South Dakota) – about the logistics of the deal, the potential relocation of taxpayer-funded jobs overseas, and the protection of U.S.-financed technology. Required approval by both the Chinese and U.S. governments seemed to be a high hurdle.

Timeline: A123 Systems' Downward Spiral to Bankruptcy

A123 logoAs Bloomberg reported today, stimulus-funded electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems filed bankruptcy in federal court after failing to make a debt payment that was due. Milwaukee Business Times has reported that Johnson Controls will purchase the “automotive business assets” of A123 for $125 million, and that A123 will receive from Johnson $72.5 million in “debtor in possession” financing to continue operating during the sale process.

Regular readers won’t be surprised, as the company’s gradual sink to its current depths – despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers – has been covered by NLPC since late last year. A review:

Government Love for Failing A123 Systems Was Unconditional

A123 logoAs stimulus-funded ($249 million-plus) A123 Systems sees its stock price drop back near its all-time low and waits for a Chinese rescue, two Republican senators want answers about whether taxpayer dollars are again funding jobs and technology that will be transferred overseas.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking minority member on the Judiciary Committee, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune queried A123 CEO David Vieau about the logistics of a proposed sale to China-based Wanxiang Group Corp. In August, just as the company reported another $82.9 million in second-quarter losses, a deal was announced in which Wanxiang would deliver $75 million in initial loans and then would buy $200 million of senior secured convertible notes, followed by a possible $175 million “through the exercise of warrants it would receive in connection with the bridge loan and convertible notes.” If fully consummated, the end result could mean A123 ends up 80 percent Chinese.

Taxpayer-Funded Electric Vehicle Maker Needs IPO Cash to Survive

Frito Lay Electric TruckSmith Electric Vehicles, which is using $32 million in taxpayer stimulus to practically give away its delivery trucks to corporations like Frito-Lay (owned by PepsiCo), Coca-Cola and Staples, is hemorrhaging money anyway and now is looking to an initial public offering to pay off debts and try to survive.

The Kansas City Star reported last week that Smith cut its production expectations and warning it is running low on cash, citing filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company announced nearly a year ago it would seek $125 million through an IPO, but now says it hopes to raise about $76 million at a stock price of $16 to $18, according to a Kansas City Business Journal report.

NASDAQ Delisting Threat Jeopardizes Chinese Rescue of A123 Systems

A123 logoTwo weeks ago the mainstream and clean tech advocacy media proclaimed that taxpayer-subsidized, failing electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems would be saved by a deal with a Chinese company.

Since then the Massachusetts-based manufacturer’s stock price sank below what had been its previous low of 44 cents. This morning it is down to 38 cents, and yesterday the company received a delisting notice from the NASDAQ. So what happened?

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