Mon, Oct 17, 2016 - Page 14 News List

Sonnen considering IPO in bid to take on Tesla battery


Sonnen GmbH, a German solar-energy storage maker that competes against Tesla Motors Inc’s Powerwall battery, might pursue an initial public offering (IPO) as early as next year to develop additional services.

The company, formed in 2010 in Bavaria, sold its 10,000th battery this year and is taking on new stakeholders ahead of an IPO, according to its founder, Christoph Ostermann.

Sonnen gained US$85 million in a fresh financing round this fall, helped by new stakeholders Envision Energy and Thomas Putter, the former chairman of Allianz Capital Partners GmbH, Ostermann said.

Sonnen is seeking cash to develop its “virtual utility” business globally, stealing a march on Tesla and challenging conventional utilities, he said in a telephone interview on Friday.

The company is hooking up solar battery owners to allow them to share power and seeks sales in balancing conventional grids, Ostermann said, adding that he envisages an IPO in one or two years.

“We’re not putting ourselves under stress,” he said.

Sonnen has added the US, Australia, the UK and Italy to its home market.

It might seek a share sale in Germany or the US and has already adopted International Financial Reporting Standards accounting procedures, Ostermann said.

Tesla chairman Elon Musk said in Berlin in 2014 that the US, Australia and Germany are focus areas for Powerwall sales and add-on services, a strategy that Sonnen shares.

Helped by subsidies, about 32,000 solar batteries were sold in Germany last year.

Envision, which has branched out as China’s second-biggest wind turbine maker into power management solutions, will help Sonnen’s network plans with software expertise, Ostermann said. GE Ventures, another stakeholder, is also advising on technology.

Sonnen battery owners who sign up to the “SonnenCommunity” platform can trade power for about 0.23 euros (US$0.25) a kilowatt-hour, lower than the current average rate of about 0.30 euros, the company estimates.

A thirst for investment cash might prompt European power generation and grid companies — conventional or “virtual” such as Sonnen — to turn to share sales, launching what Goldman Sachs Group Inc called a “super cycle” of investment in low-carbon power generation and management, in a note last month.

As much as 700 billion euros might be sought by utilities as they boost investment in clean energy, power management, grids and storage, the investment bank said.

The IPO of RWE AG’s grid and renewable energy spin-off Innogy SE this month created Germany’s most-valued utility, bigger than the mother ship where conventional power is located.

Global utility-scale and retail storage capacity may jump to 45.1 gigawatts (GW) by 2024 from 2.9GW this year, with the biggest growth markets being Japan, the US, China, India and Germany, according to a forecast this month from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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