January 30, 2010 / 12:34 AM / 9 years ago

Electric carmaker Tesla files for IPO

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. electric sports car maker Tesla Motors filed for an initial public offering of up to $100 million, aiming to cash in on growing investor interest in battery-powered vehicles and green technology.

The IPO filing on Friday from the six-year-old start-up, best known for its $109,000 all-electric Roadster, marks the first public offering from a U.S. automaker since Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Co (F.N) made its share debut in 1956.

It also represents a landmark in the resurgence of electric car technology that most carmakers until recently had dismissed as impractical.

Tesla’s IPO, with underwriters including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank Securities, should generate enthusiasm for IPOs generally, analysts said.

“People are going to be watching this one move through the pipeline,” said Matt Therian, analyst with Connecticut-based IPO research firm Renaissance Capital. “It’s probably a good sign for the IPO market.”

Ben Holmes, founder of Morningnotes.com, said an IPO is sometimes the best form of advertising, especially if the deal is successful, for companies like Tesla.

“Venture-backed deals were kind of derailed and this might be what we call a bell cow — a deal that’s so steady and so well-done and so impressive it brings other deals to market that were waiting,” he said.

Reuters reported in November that Tesla was preparing to file for an IPO.< ID:nN20238220>

In the nine months ended September 30, Tesla said, it lost $31.5 million, down from a loss of $57.3 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenue jumped to $93.4 million from

$580,000.

The company said it would continue to post losses until it begins making “significant” deliveries of the Model S, which is not expected to launch until 2012.

Tesla, in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, did not provide details on IPO pricing or its timing.

COMPETING WITH ESTABLISHED AUTOMAKERS

Tesla will compete with established carmakers such as Ford, General Motors and Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T), all of which are racing to launch electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Tesla is a small player with a high-end market and limited production, but hopes the Model S electric sedan will broaden its potential market.

It has received about 2,000 reservations for the car, which is being designed as a four-door, five-passenger premium sedan with an additional third row with two rear-facing child seats. It has a base price of $49,900.

The appetite for IPOs has picked up since mid-September this year, with a robust pace of new filings.

Tesla’s IPO would follow the successful debut of lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems Inc AONE.O, whose shares rallied 50 percent on their first day of trading on September 25.

The company, named after scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla, said in the filing it had sold 937 Roadsters in 18 countries since it was founded.

Chairman Elon Musk has often expressed a desire to take his company public and had previously targeted late 2008 or 2009, but financial market turmoil after Lehman Brothers collapsed in late 2008 virtually shut down the IPO market.

Musk, an entrepreneur who made hundreds of millions as co-founder of online payments service PayPal and whose current ventures include space exploration company SpaceX, makes a base salary of just $33,280 a year, according to the filing.

But he took $175,000 in reimbursements from Tesla for using his private jet.

Tensions between shareholders, regulators and company executives over perceptions of inflated salaries for managers have risen in the recession. But Tesla’s filing showed that Musk had used his own plane without compensation since 2009’s second quarter.

“From time to time, Elon Musk uses his private airplane for Tesla business travel. Beginning in the second quarter of 2009, we agreed to pay for certain third-party operation expenses incurred in connection with the use of Mr. Musk’s private plane,” the filing read.

“These operation expenses include fuel charges, landing fees and other related expenses. Through December 31, 2009, we paid approximately $175,000 for such expenses. Prior to the second quarter of 2009, Mr. Musk paid for such business travel expenses without reimbursement.”

Tesla’s investors include Google Inc (GOOG.O) founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Others include Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE); Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments AABAR.AD, which owns a Daimler stake; and venture capital funds Draper Fisher Jurvetson, DraperValor Equity Partners, Technology Partners, The Westly Group and Compass Venture Partners.

Additional reporting by Laura Isensee and Alexander Haislip in Los Angeles; editing by Leslie Gevirtz, Gary Hill

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