Elon Musk's solar energy biz scraps IPO liftoff at last minute
SolarCity's stock debut postponed, sources whisper
Elon Musk's clean tech venture, SolarCity, has delayed its initial public offering at the last minute, putting the shares, which had been due to start trading today, on hold.
The solar energy firm is struggling to price its stock sale amid troubles in the sector, sources told Reuters and the New York Times.
According to an SEC filing, the company was hoping to raise up to $151m on shares priced at between $13 and $15. That price would put the market valuation of the firm at a hefty $1bn, making it the second most valuable US-listed solar company behind First Solar.
Before now, SolarCity had been able to raise the money from private backers like Google, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Its business model offers homeowners a free solar energy system in return for solar leases running for up to 20 years.
But subsidies for solar power are falling and competitors in the sector have been suffering. Solar firm Solyndra recently declared bankruptcy, as did battery maker A123 Systems.
Musk naturally has faith in the firm and is planning to buy up $15m worth of the stock in the IPO. But it's not easy to put a price to the shares of solar firms because they're so untested in the markets.
In addition, like so many tech firms that want to debut on the market, SolarCity has yet to make a profit. Its revenues jumped 84 per cent last year to $59.6m, but it still had a net loss of $73.6m. ®
I like this
The delay bolsters my feeling that these people are serious about putting a proper value on the stocks, not just hype them up and rake in the profit.
Having Elon Musk on board must be a help for the company as well - there's an immediate and obvious tie in with wealthy folk buying Tesla EVs who may have properties with large roofs that can accommodate a decent sized solar panel installation with which to power the vehicle. Buy a Tesla - get a free SolarCity roof top power station thrown in to run it.
It does show the subsidies are a double edged sword though, especially if their withdrawal isn't planned and advertised well in advance (as the UK solar industry discovered last winter). And that doesn't just apply to renewables like solar and wind: the tax break subsidies for gas fracking announced by George Osborne may well stuff up that fledging industry as well if the multinationals get hooked on them and then suddenly have them reduced/removed.
I think I would rather be a Telsa investor than GM/Chevy/etc