A123 Systems Turns Out Its Pockets Again

Here we go again: Another battery maker is crushing shareholder hopes by announcing a dilutive stock offering to fund its ongoing cash bonfire.

Ener1 (Nasdaq: HEV  ) came begging for $85 million in September alone last year. Advanced Battery Technologies (Nasdaq: ABAT  ) , the only profitable battery maker, sold $30 million of stock and warrants, in a shock to investors at the time. Even Valence Technology (Nasdaq: VLNC  ) , the closest thing to a profitable battery maker we have on this side of the Pacific, quietly sold $23.4 million of shares last year.

But we should have seen the latest blow from A123 Systems (Nasdaq: AONE  ) coming from a mile away. I warned of impending dilution after A123 reported a disappointing fourth quarter in 2010, and an even gloomier outlook for 2011. The company expects EBITDA loss to be higher in 2011 than 2010, so it really had no choice but to offer shares at some point. Shareholders, open your wallets.

If the deal goes off as planned, A123 will sell an extra 20.7 million shares and $143.75 million of debt, assuming underwriters exercise their options (as they usually do). If shares sell for $7 apiece, A123 would bring in roughly $288.75 million to fund operations and finish capital expenditures. To put that in context, A123 burned $128 million in operations alone during 2010.

The latest round of dilution would leave A123 with around $500 million in cash -- hopefully enough to drag the company into full-fledged operations. But with losses expected through 2011, you never know when A123 might have to go back to the well.

Short-sellers consider A123 Systems an easy target, shorting nearly 15% of shares. I’m not ready to follow suit, but I don’t see any catalyst for long investors in the near term. I have hope for A123 over the long haul, but I'll be sitting on the sidelines until I see some real progress toward profitable operations.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any stock mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.


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  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 1:16 PM, alyf wrote:

    The money will help them complete their build out, but where are their customers???

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