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Tesla electric-car company plans IPO

Tesla CEO Elon Musk generates buzz in the blogosphere, an... Paul Sancya / APTesla Motors, the Palo Alto company that popularized the notion that electric cars could be sexy, filed documents with federal regulators Friday for an initial stock offering worth up to $100 million.

Tesla did not say when the offering might happen or how much its shares would cost. A company spokeswoman declined to comment.

The move had been expected for years.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive officer, reportedly told a technology conference in 2008 that he wanted to take the company public by the end of that year, after he had raised another round of private financing. But the worldwide financial collapse crushed both of those plans. Since then, Tesla IPO rumors have surfaced occasionally, only to fizzle.

Tesla isn’t the only green-tech startup in the Bay Area going public. Codexis Inc., a Redwood City company that makes designer enzymes for biofuel production, filed its IPO documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission in late December. Last week Fremont’s Solyndra Corp., which makes solar panels shaped like fluorescent lights, followed suit.

“There’s no question that we’re going to see not a gusher but certainly a steady stream of clean-tech IPOs in 2010,” said Joel Makower, who is executive editor of GreenBiz.com and a co-founder of the Clean Edge research firm. “We’re going to look back fairly soon and see that 2009 was an anomaly.”

Tesla can rely on its IPO generating a high level of buzz. It counts movie stars and politicians among the customers for its $109,000 all-electric Roadster, and Musk’s comments tend to reverberate around the blogosphere, endlessly dissected by electric-car aficionados.

“I think that Tesla’s going to attract people the way Google attracted people, just by virtue of who they are,” Makower said.

Some of the money raised by the offering will help Tesla develop its new power train facility in Palo Alto and an assembly plant in Southern California for the company’s next car, a $57,400 sedan called the Model S.

The federal government awarded Tesla $465 million in federal loans last year to develop both facilities. According to the documents filed Friday with the SEC, Tesla will spend $33 million this year on those facilities, money which will come from the IPO.

Like most startups, Tesla is not yet profitable. From its birth in 2003 through Sept. 30 of last year, Tesla brought in $108.2 million in revenue and accumulated a deficit of $236.4 million, according to the documents. The company lost $82.8 million in 2008 and $31.5 million for the first nine months of 2009.

Tesla started shipping the Roadster in 2008 and by the end of last year had sold 937 of the low, sleek sports cars.

The documents filed Friday, however, warn potential investors of a possible hiccup in production and sales.

Due to “planned tooling changes” at one of the company’s suppliers, Tesla does not plan to sell the current generation of the Roadster after 2011. The Roadster’s new models won’t hit the market until after the Model S does, according to the documents. But Model S production probably won’t begin until sometime in 2012. And that could be delayed.

“As a result, we anticipate that we may generate limited, if any, revenue from selling electric vehicles after 2011 until the launch of the planned Model S,” one of the documents reads.

Electric cars aren’t the company’s only product. Tesla also makes electric power trains to sell to other automakers, including Daimler.

 

 

E-mail David R. Baker at dbaker@sfchronicle.com.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/30/MNUV1BPUCL.DTL#ixzz0e96sfG0R

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