Troubled green carmaker Fisker seeks to raise more cash

SAN FRANCISCO/DETROIT Wed Aug 15, 2012 10:38pm EDT

The Fisker automotive electric Atlantic sedan is seen during its unveiling ahead of the 2012 International Auto Show in New York April 3, 2012. REUTERS/Allison Joyce

The Fisker automotive electric Atlantic sedan is seen during its unveiling ahead of the 2012 International Auto Show in New York April 3, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Allison Joyce

SAN FRANCISCO/DETROIT (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive, the maker of the $100,000-plus Karma hybrid sports car, aims to raise about $150 million in additional funds to tide the company over until it can launch production of its second model, a key investor said on Wednesday.

The company has already raised more than $1 billion in private financing from venture backers and others since its founding in 2007. But earlier this year, Fisker was denied access to more than half of a $529-million government loan that was the cornerstone of its business plan.

"We need money on our balance sheet" to fund operating expenses, said Ray Lane, a Fisker director and a managing partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. "And we need money to fund the development of the next car."

Although it has raised more than $400 million in venture funds in the past 12 months, Fisker needs at least another $150 million to reach breakeven and may go back to investors again in 2013 for more money, Lane said in an interview.

"We're raising some of that money now, and some later," he said, declining to say how much the company would need in total.

Once Fisker breaks even, the company could pursue an initial public offering or a sale to a strategic investor, which could come in late 2013, Lane said.

Fisker originally had planned to replace its government-backed loan with high-yield debt plus equity, but shelved that plan in favor of simply raising more equity, Lane said.

Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher declined to comment on the company's financial plans.

GREEN-TECH WOES

In 2009, Fisker was among the few automakers to receive a U.S. Department of Energy loan as part of a broader government push to add U.S. jobs and promote green technology. Under a different government effort, Fisker's battery supplier A123 Systems received a $249-million green-technology grant.

But both companies have struggled in recent months. Fisker has faced a series of quality and financial setbacks involving its flagship vehicle, the Karma plug-in hybrid, and delays in the development of its second hybrid model, the Atlantic sedan.

The automaker, based in Anaheim, California, had planned to build the Atlantic at a former General Motors Co (GM.N) plant in Delaware, the home state of Vice President Joseph Biden. It had counted on using money from the DOE loan to retool the plant and get it ready for production in 2013.

In the meantime, Fisker has experienced a small number of high-profile car fires, the most recent one last week in Woodside, California. Earlier this week, Fisker named its third chief executive this year.

A123, which had run short of cash, said last week that it planned to sell a controlling stake to Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang for $450 million.

Fisker has raised $1.01 billion from more than 100 venture investors over the past five years, according to company documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

After a rocky start and several delays, Fisker has delivered 2,000 Karmas, Lane said. He drives one, as do actor Leonardo DiCaprio and singer Justin Bieber.

(Editing by Mary Milliken, Bernard Orr and Ken Wills)