Mon, Dec 10, 2012 - Page 15 News List

China’s Wanxiang wins A123 auction for US$260 million


China’s Wanxiang Group (萬向集團) bid US$260 million for assets of car battery maker A123 Systems Inc, winning a bankruptcy auction, officials said.

The assets purchased may include A123’s automotive segment, energy-grid storage business, commercial business and US government business.

“I can tell you that we have won the bid, and the total value is about US$260 million,” said Mo Xiaoping (莫小平), a spokesman for Wanxiang Group based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.

A123, which received a US$249.1 million federal grant, held the auction behind closed doors in the Chicago law offices of Latham & Watkins.

The auction began on Thursday with prospective bidders, including Johnson Controls, Wanxiang, Siemens AG and Tokyo-based NEC Corp.

The company will seek court approval to sell the assets from US Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey at a hearing tomorrow in Wilmington, Delaware.

A123’s automotive business includes facilities in Livonia and Romulus, Michigan. A123 used US$132 million of the grant toward building the two Michigan factories.

As part of the purchase, the buyer may get A123’s stake in a joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (上海汽車).

The grid business focuses on energy generation, transmission and distribution, while the commercial division develops products for industries such as telecommunications, industrial robotics and power tools, according to court papers.

A123 works with the government on portable power solutions, unmanned aerial vehicles, pulsed power weapons as well as small energy cells for remote devices.

A123 said in August that it was working on a deal with Wanxiang, China’s largest auto-parts maker, for financing in exchange for a majority ownership stake.

The battery-maker needed a lifeline after recalling faulty batteries supplied to its main customer, Fisker Automotive Inc.

Fisker chief executive officer Tony Posawatz said last month the Anaheim, California-based automaker was awaiting the sale of A123’s Michigan plant that makes lithium-ion batteries for its Karma so it could resume production of the US$103,000 plug-in sedan.

Wanxiang had planned to invest as much as US$465 million in A123, giving it a stake of as much as 80 percent, A123 said in a statement released on Aug. 16.

Wanxiang has been pursuing approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US CFIUS, a multiagency group led by the US Treasury Department, reviews mergers and acquisitions for national security concerns when a takeover may give a foreign owner control of a US company.

A123, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, filed for bankruptcy in October after the Wanxiang deal was scuttled amid congressional Republicans’ reluctance to allow the sale of the government-funded company to a Chinese company.

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