Ballard to Sell Auto Fuel Cell Biz to Ford, Daimler

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Ballard has found a buyer. The nearly three-decades-old forefather of the fuel cell industry, Ballard Power Systems (BLDP), says it has agreed to sell its automotive fuel cell business to Daimler (DAI) and Ford (F). Earlier this week the Vancouver, B.C.-based hydrogen fuel cell developer confirmed it was shopping its auto fuel cell business around, citing a lengthy commercialization timeline and high development costs.

The capital-intensive auto fuel cell division will be getting the investment it needs. Ballard said Daimler and Ford, which own 18.7 percent and 11.2 percent of Ballard respectively, will exchange 34.3 million Ballard shares, valued at $168 million, for Ballard’s auto fuel cell business. Ballard says it will cancel the shares, once received.

Ford and Daimler will use Ballard’s assets to create a new private company that will develop the automotive fuel cell technology, though Ballard will still have a stake in the new venture. Daimler will own 50.1 percent, Ford 30 percent and Ballard 19.9 percent. Daimler and Ford will invest $60 million into the new company and Ballard will invest $60 million.

Ford and Daimler have the funds to support the slow-moving, high-capital auto fuel cell business. Ballard, on the other hand, hasn’t turned a profit in nearly a decade, and this week also reported a net loss of $16.02 million for its third quarter. While the company has been in the fuel cell space longer than most of its competitors, the auto fuel cell market itself has failed to develop, and it doesn’t appear to be moving into the mainstream anytime soon. Maybe Ford and Daimler can help move the process along a little faster.

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