Norway electric carmaker receives financial help

OSLO Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:17am EST

OSLO Jan 13 (Reuters) - The Norwegian maker of the Th!nk City electric car has received interim financing from investors, saving it from bankruptcy, after temporarily halting production in December following a cash squeeze.

The privately-held company said on Tuesday it had received a bridge loan of 40 million crowns ($5.69 million) with the largest part from private equity firm Ener1 Group, the main shareholder of battery producer Ener1 Inc HEV.A.

"The financing will allow Think to focus its efforts towards the next stages of the restructuring process," Think said in a statement, adding that it aimed to raise permanent equity capital and gradually return to volume production.

Think ran into difficulties obtaining working capital because of the global financial crisis and temporarily laid off most employees at its Norway plant.

The company had earlier announced plans to significantly boost production this year and launch its two-seater car in several European cities, starting with Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Think said in December that it would probably not survive without financial help and estimated that it needed 100-200 million crowns in the short term.

The company has gone bankrupt twice before, the last time in 2006, but has since been re-launched by new owners and investors.

Th!nk City -- about the size of a Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit -- runs on sodium or lithium batteries and can travel up to 110 miles (177 km) on one charge. The car has been in production since last October at between eight and 10 cars a day.

Think has said it aims to reach 44 units a day when running at full capacity sometime in 2009. It aims to launch a four-seater version of Th!nk City, an emission-free, 95 percent recyclable car with a maximum speed of 65 mph. (Reporting by Aasa Christine Stoltz)

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