Israel’s BrightSource Still Private After IPO Withdrawal

brightsource concentrated solar thermal
Concentrated solar power company BrightSource doesn’t wear its Israeli identity on its sleeve.

“We’re a U.S. company with Israeli engineering, not an Israeli company. It’s a nuance but important to get right,” Keely Wachs, senior director of corporate communications for BrightSource, wrote in an email message.

And with an American President and CEO named John Woolard running the company from Oakland, California it may be hard to guess that most BrightSource executives live in Israel. But when BrightSource pulled its IPO last week, just before its scheduled date on April 11, the company’s American identity became even more important for its existence.

BrightSource’s 392 MW Ivanpah plant in California’s Mojave Desert received a partial loan guarantee of $1.6 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy last April, on top of millions in private sector funding from big-names American companies like NRG Solar and Google.

BrightSource executives decided at the last minute that the company and the market were not ready for the intial public offering, which the company had initially capped at $250 million when it filed for the IPO with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last April.

So for the time being it will continue to rely on its government and private sector funding with the hope that eventually solar will be considered a lucrative stock that any jo-shmo would like to own. Wachs emphasized that BrightSource could have chosen to go ahead with the IPO, but cancelled it from a position of strength.

“During our IPO marketing, we did experience significant interest from potential investors in the US and internationally. We’re also seeing significant demand for our technology in international markets in addition to the strong reception received domestically over the past six years.”

But, she said, various adverse market condition–particularly in the ten days leading up to the scheduled IPO–had BrightSource executives nervous about opening the company for public stock. She cited, among other things, the Enphase (another solar company) pricing that was 46% below range, the Solar Trust bankruptcy on April 4 and the cleantech composite fall of 8.9%.

Nevertheless, BrightSource is marching ahead with several new projects, including a massive 750 MW Rio Mesa plant still waiting approval from the California Energy Comission to be built in the state’s Riverside Country. With the ability to store energy in the form of molten salt overnight and during cloudy days, and with the ability to produce many megawatts of energy more than solar photovoltaic plants, solar thermal companies like BrightSource may prove very profitable in the coming years despite the apparent setback that the IPO withdrawal seemed to mark.

“We are a well-capitalized business.  We will use our strong financial position to move the business forward as planned,” Wachs said.

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