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Fisker goes to China's Wanxiang

Mon, 17 Feb 2014

China's Wanxiang Group won an auction for Fisker Automotive Holdings Inc., the maker of luxury plug-in hybrid cars, with a $149.2 million bid, almost six times what Fisker was seeking when it filed for bankruptcy.

Wanxiang topped Hybrid Tech Holdings during the auction, which began on Wednesday and went through 19 rounds of bidding, with an offer that includes $126.2 million in cash and $8 million in assumed liabilities, Fisker said Friday in a statement.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross is scheduled to consider approving the sale on Feb. 18 in Wilmington, Del.

When it filed for bankruptcy in November, Fisker asked Gross to let Hybrid buy the company for about $25 million. Hybrid held a U.S. government loan to Fisker that the carmaker had defaulted on without making a payment. Unsecured creditors objected to the price and helped bring Wanxiang, China's largest auto-parts supplier, into the case in December.

“It's tremendous,” said William R. Baldiga of Brown Rudnick LLP, an attorney for the creditors. “I'm enjoying my ride home tonight.”

With the assets, the Chinese buyer could revive the Fisker brand in the world's biggest auto market, which is struggling to reduce some of the globe's worst air pollution. It would also provide an entry point to selling cars in the United States.

Wanxiang already owns the successor to the U.S. company that supplied batteries to Fisker until collapsing under the cost of recalling defective power packs.

Hurricane Sandy

Henrik Fisker, who founded the Anaheim, Calif.-based automaker in 2007, told Congress in April that safety recalls, the bankrupt battery supplier and shipments lost to Hurricane Sandy hurt the company's finances.

Fisker listed assets of as much as $500 million and debt of as much as $1 billion in its Nov. 22 Chapter 11 petition. The company sought creditor protection after defaulting on the U.S. loan. It had drawn about $192 million of the initial commitment of $529 million from a federal program intended to spur production of alternative-energy vehicles.

Hybrid Tech last year paid the U.S. Energy Department $25 million for the right to collect the loan. Fisker said in its bankruptcy filing that it intended to make a quick sale to Hybrid, a company led by Richard Li, the son of Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing.

“This is a great result for all Fisker stakeholders, including Hybrid Tech Holdings LLC and Fisker's general unsecured creditors,” Marc Beilinson, the carmaker's chief restructuring officer, said in the statement Friday.

18 patents

Among Fisker's assets are 18 patents covering grille designs, a fender vent and electric-vehicle drivetrain technology, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

It also has at least 18 more patent applications pending, including in aluminum subframing and solar-car technologies, said Charles Shifley, a patent attorney at Banner & Witcoff in Chicago.

Fisker also spent $20 million in 2010 to take over an abandoned General Motors plant in Wilmington. Both Hybrid and Wanxiang said they were interested in using the U.S. plant.

In bankruptcy court, a secured creditor like Hybrid typically can trade the face amount of a loan for a company's assets in a so-called credit bid.

Bid limit

While Fisker owed Hybrid more than $168 million, Gross said Hybrid could only use $25 million in any credit bid, siding with Wanxiang and unsecured creditors who argued a limit was the only way to create a competitive auction. Hybrid later raised its offer to $55 million, including the $25 million credit bid.

The Energy Department decided to sell its interest in Fisker after the default and when attempts to find a buyer failed. The winner of the auction will have to keep manufacturing and research in the United States, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said last month.

“After actively bidding in the auction, Hybrid has elected to retain its rights as a lender rather than continue to bid for ownership of Fisker,” Hybrid said in a statement.

Fisker said the sale should close “promptly” after Gross grants his approval.

The deal is also subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, according to Anita-Marie Laurie, an outside spokeswoman for Fisker with Sitrick and Co.

The act requires individuals and companies over a certain size to adhere to notification and waiting period conditions before they complete acquisitions resulting in holding stock or assets above specified thresholds.

"China's Wanxiang wins bidding for Fisker" was posted on Automotive News on 2/17/2014

By Automotive News