A123Systems Shares Jump 50% in Nasdaq Debut

A123Systems’ Nasdaq debut Thursday thoroughly justified the company’s confidence in its initial public offering, with the stock leaping more than 50 percent to close at $20.29 per share after pricing at $13.50 per share Wednesday. That price represented a hike from the already raised estimated range of between $10 and $11.50 per share Tuesday.

The successful IPO increases A123’s cachet and spells the go-ahead for its ambitious manufacturing plans. It also renews other cleantech companies’ hope that the public markets are once again open to them as a source of funding. After a much-lamented drought of cleantech IPOs, the industry is celebrating this day as a sign that investor appetite could be back.

Other energy-storage companies have been quick to step in to share the spotlight with A123. Imara Corp., which also plans to target electric vehicles and earlier this week began selling lithium-ion cells for power tools and gardening equipment, released a statement Thursday calling A123’s IPO “a positive sign” for the sector. “It shows that the U.S. financial markets are recognizing the vital role of energy storage in reducing U.S. dependence on carbon-based fuels and building a leadership position in clean power markets such as grid storage and transportations,” said CEO Jeff Depew, adding that Imara is looking forward to competing with A123 and believes it technology can deliver more power and run time.

A spokesman for Maxwell Technologies (s MXWL), which earlier this week scored a deal with automotive-components supplier Continental, said the IPO also is a good sign for the ultracapacitor industry. And Richard Brody, vice president of business development for Powergenix, which is developing nickel-zinc batteries for consumer electronics, power tools and hybrid vehicles, said he expects this will be the first of a series of energy-storage IPOs, though he wouldn’t discuss whether PowerGenix might be one of them.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether investors are ready to embrace offerings in other cleantech sectors. Batteries and other energy storage companies have been less impacted by the recession than other sectors, at least in terms of venture-capital funding. According to the cleantech group, energy-storage investment rose in the first two quarters this year, even as other cleantech investments remained low.

But after the success of A123’s bet on its IPO, you can expect other companies – especially energy storage and transportation startups – to try their luck soon.