Smith Electric Vehicles is raising $40M, what about IPO?

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Updated: Electric car company Smith Electric Vehicles is in the process of raising $40 million from private investors, according to a filing. So what about the potential $125 million IPO, which Smith filed for in November? Smith wouldn’t comment on the future of the IPO and the company hasn’t filed to pull the IPO yet, but often times when a company turns to private investors in the months after filing for an IPO, it indicates that the company might not actually go public.

Update: Smith announced on February 17 that Chinese auto manufacturer Wanxiang Group has signed a letter of intent for a $25 million equity investment into Smith and an up to a $75 million investment in a JV between Smith and Wanxiang to make electric school buses and commercial vehicles.

It’s been a difficult past few months for greentech companies looking to go public. Late last year smart grid company Silver Spring Networks opted to raise private funds from storage and IT giant EMC, instead of going public (it filed for an IPO in the Summer of 2011).

The third quarter of 2011 was one of the weakest IPO markets since the end of 2009, according to a report released by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). In August it seemed like the IPO window slammed shut due to macroeconomic conditions like the European crisis and has remained difficult since then.

Smith Electric Vehicles sells electric trucks and vans for companies’ fleet operations and counts customers like Coca-Cola, Fed-Ex, Staples, and Sainsburys, as well as the military. The trucks and vans are supposed to be cost competitive with diesel trucks. Based in Kansas City, Mo the company has long said it planned to go public, and it bought the electric vehicle division of its U.K. parent company, the Tanfield Group, in 2011.

Smith’s operations are still small. The company only sold 320 vehicles for the year ending Sept. 30, 2011, but says in its IPO filing that it has a backlog of 120 vehicles and has pre-sold 540 vehicles, which it will produce through July 2012. In the long run, Smith says it has customer interest for another 2,220 vehicles, which it will produce between 2012 and 2015.

For the six months that ended June 30, 2011, Smith generated $37.60 million in revenue, which was up from the $15.82 million in revenue it generated for the previous period in 2010. Like most greentech companies that try to go public these days, Smith is also not profitable. For the six months that ended June 30, 2011, Smith had a net loss of $21.28 million, which was a larger net loss than the $9.52 million that the company lost the year before.

Smith Electric Vehicles is a modest winner of Department of Energy stimulus funds, and won $32 million in grants to build electric trucks with on-board telemetry systems. Obama also visited Smith’s factory back in 2010 and gave a speech about green jobs. Obama has a plan to get 1 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2015.

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richard servatius

Obama may “want” something, but when will he get off the pot?
I live in the West, where vehicles have to have a long driving range (schwann truck probably drives 300 miles per day). there is no service here and no battery exchange station. Recharging would have to be done at their warehouse. For in-town deliveries this EV would be great. So i can foresee a few companies using it in town, but companies like: schwanns, ups, fedex, post office, snapon, etc. would have to use both ICE and EV trucks.

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