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Smith Electric Vehicles halts IPO plans

Another electric vehicle maker has put the brakes on a plan to go public: Smith Electric Vehicles announced late Thursday that it would no longer pursue an initial public offering.

That doesn’t mean the Kansas City company no longer needs money. Smith said it will seek private capital instead. Its CEO, Bryan Hansel, said in a statement:

“We received significant interest from potential investors, however, we were unable to complete a transaction at a valuation or size that would be in the best interests of our company and its existing shareholders. We have instead elected to pursue private financing opportunities to support the execution of our business plan.”

Smith makes all-electric trucks for commercial use, from food and equipment delivery to shuttle buses, and customers include Coca-Cola, Fed-Ex, Staples, and Sainsburys, as well as the military. The decision to forego an IPO doesn’t seem so surprising considering earlier this year it said it plans to raise $40 million privately.

Smith said back in February that Chinese auto manufacturer Wanxiang Group had signed a letter of intent for a $25 million equity investment into Smith and an up to a $75 million investment in a joint venture between Smith and Wanxiang to make electric school buses and commercial vehicles. A variety of electric vehicle makers and battery makers have been looking to Chinese investors and manufacturers to scale up their businesses.

Smith sold 270 electric vehicles in fiscal year 2011 and 90 in the first six months of 2012. In the long run, Smith says it has customer interest for another 2,220 vehicles, which it will produce between 2012 and 2015. Smith generated around $50 million in revenue for the fiscal year 2011 and had a net loss of $52.2 million.

Smith was a modest winner of Department of Energy stimulus funds, and won $32 million in grants. Obama also visited Smith’s factory back in 2010  (see photo) and gave a speech about green jobs. Obama has a plan to get 1 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2015.