* Wanxiang prevails in battle of Chinese billionaires
* Production could restart in coming months
* Dispute remains over how to split money from Fisker sale
By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Del, Feb 18 A unit of China's
Wanxiang Group received U.S. bankruptcy court approval on
Tuesday to buy the assets of Fisker Automotive, a defunct
manufacturer of plug-in hybrid sports cars that was funded in
part with a U.S. government loan.
Wanxiang America Corp, an affiliate of China's largest auto
parts company, bid $149.2 million for Fisker in a three-day
auction that pitted it against Hybrid Tech Holdings.
"I'm very pleased to approve the sale," said Kevin Gross,
the U.S. bankruptcy judge in Wilmington, Delaware, who is
overseeing Fisker's Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The auction for Fisker has been dubbed a battle of Chinese
billionaires, with Wanxiang's founder Lu Guanqiu squaring off
against Richard Li of Hong Kong, who controls Hybrid. Bidding
had started at $55 million.
At the center of the fight is Fisker, which ceased
production of its elegant $100,000 sports cars in 2012 to save
cash after a series of tech glitches and cost overruns.
"We are delighted that our client prevailed at the auction,
and we look forward to completing the next step in this
process," said Bojan Guzina, a Sidley Austin attorney who
The company said in court papers it could restart production
in the coming months, estimating that it would sell more than
1,000 Karma hybrids in the first 18 months in the United States
and 500 in Europe.
Wanxiang bought Fisker's battery supplier, A123 Systems LLC,
last year through a similar bankruptcy sale, and said it could
lower production costs.
A123 and Fisker were both recipients of a controversial U.S.
Department of Energy loan program meant to support clean energy
Fisker was approved to borrow up to $529 million, in part to
support the company's efforts to revive a former General Motors
plant in Delaware.
Li bought that loan late last year for $25 million. He
planned to forgive some of the $168 million balance on the loan
in return for the company's assets, a process known as credit
However, in January, Gross capped the credit bid at the $25
million paid for the loan, a ruling that Li's lawyers criticized
Tuesday's hearing did not resolve who would benefit from the
sale of Fisker. Lower-ranking unsecured creditors have already
challenged Li's ability to be paid first, based on the
outstanding balance on the government loan.
Unsecured creditors have also sought to sue Li, a former
Fisker director, for pushing Fisker into bankruptcy and then
trying to seize the assets on the cheap.
The case is In re Fisker Automotive Holdings Inc, U.S.
Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, No. 13-13087.