Published November 9, 2012
By Jeff Cobb
At least four major corporations are known to be prepared to bid on the assets of now-bankrupted A123 Systems on Dec. 6, and the actual number of bidders could be more than twice that.
The main two competitors squaring off are Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI) and Chinese auto parts manufacturer, Wanxiang Group Corp.
JCI has expressed intent to purchase the automotive side of A123’s business, Wanxiang as has also been previously reported was set to purchase the entire company.
According to Automotive News, German-based Siemens AG and Japan’s NEC Corp. have also expressed intent to bid. And beyond these, a broader spectrum of those wanting part or all of A123’s diverse assets – which include military and industrial contracts – was implied in a statement to the Delaware court handling the matter by A123’s investment banker.
"This is not a two-horse race,” said Timothy Pohl of Lazard Freres & Co. “This is a 10-horse race."
Given that A123 is a military contractor and not only the supplier of batteries for cars like Fisker’s Karma and Chevrolet’s pending Spark EV, national security concerns have been expressed over Wanxiang’s intent to buy the whole company.
A confidential bid was sent on Wednesday by the Chinese company to A123, Wanxiang told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey, but two Republican senators have asked the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to closely review the application.
Wanxiang’s bid will need to be approved by this federal committee, while it otherwise competes with offers in the politicized breakup of Massachusetts-based A123.
Further complicating the issues is taxpayer money has supported battery development for vehicles as well as grid storage solutions by A123.
And while President Obama who was challenged by Mitt Romney over these and related issue has less to lose now the election is past, in the interest of PR damage control – and genuine security concerns – many are hoping JCI will win out.
But the identities of remaining potential bidders has yet to be made public, so stay tuned as December approaches and the tug of war continues over A123 Systems.