Manufacturing News

Wanxiang wins bankruptcy auction for Fisker assets with 904.5 million yuan bid

Wanxiang Group won an auction for Fisker Automotive Holdings Inc., the maker of luxury plug-in hybrid cars, with a 904.5 million yuan ($149.2 million) bid, almost six times what Fisker was seeking when it filed for bankruptcy.

Wanxiang topped Hybrid Tech Holdings during the auction last week, which went through 19 rounds of bidding, with an offer that includes 765 million yuan ($126.2 million) in cash and 48.5 million yuan ($8 million) in assumed liabilities, Fisker said 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 Tech buy the company for about 151.6 million yuan ($25 million).

Hybrid Tech 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 U.S. 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, California-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 3 billion yuan ($500 million) and debt of as much as 6 billion yuan ($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 1.2 billion yuan ($192 million) of the initial commitment of 3.2 billion yuan ($529 million) from a federal program intended to spur production of alternative-energy vehicles.

Hybrid Tech last year paid the U.S. Energy Department 151.6 million yuan ($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 Tech, 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 a 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 Ltd. in Chicago.

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

In bankruptcy court, a secured creditor like Hybrid Tech 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 Tech more than 1 billion yuan ($168 million), Gross said Hybrid could only use (151.6 million yuan) $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 Tech later raised its offer to 333.5 million yuan ($55 million), including the (151.6 million yuan) $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 U.S., 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 Tech 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.

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