China's Wanxiang wins auction for troubled US hybrid-car maker Fisker

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 5:10am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 5:10am

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

In winning the four-day auction, which went through 19 rounds of bidding, Wanxiang topped Hybrid Tech, a company led by Richard Li Tzar-kai, the son of Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing. Wanxiang was founded by billionaire Lu Guanqiu.

Wanxiang's offer included US$126.2 million in cash and US$8 million in assumed liabilities, Fisker said in a statement. US bankruptcy judge Kevin Gross was scheduled to consider approving the sale on Tuesday.

When it filed for bankruptcy in November, Fisker asked Gross to let Hybrid buy the company for about US$25 million.

Hybrid last year paid the US Energy Department US$25 million for the right to collect a US government loan that Fisker had defaulted on without making a payment.

Unsecured creditors objected to the price and helped bring in Wanxiang, China's largest car-parts supplier, in December.

"It's tremendous," said William Baldiga, 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 car 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 US. Wanxiang already owns the successor to the US company that supplied batteries to Fisker until collapsing under the cost of recalling defective power packs.

Henrik Fisker, who founded the carmaker in 2007, told the US 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 US$500 million and debt of as much as US$1 billion in its November 22 Chapter 11 petition. The company sought creditor protection after defaulting on the US loan. It had drawn about US$192 million of the initial commitment of US$529 million from a federal programme intended to spur production of alternative-energy vehicles.

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

Among Fisker's assets are 18 patents covering grille designs, a fender vent and electric-vehicle drivetrain technology, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office database. It also had at least 18 more patent applications pending, including in aluminium subframing and solar-car technologies, said Charles Shifley, a Chicago patent attorney.

Fisker said the sale should close "promptly".