a123 lithium ion battery pack
If you're lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems and have been through the public image ringer with the Fisker Karma battery pack recalls and an explosion at General Motors' Warren Tech Center, what do you do? After all, getting U.S. Dept. of Energy Grants, rolling out a resilient Nanophosphate EXT phosphate battery and signing a deal with Smith Electric Vehicles, can only get you so far. So, how about bringing in a Chinese investor? That is working pretty well for Volvo.

A123 Systems signed an agreement on August 8th with Wanxiang Group Corporation that could bring in a $450 million investment and give the large Chinese automotive components manufacturer an 80 percent ownership stake. The non-binding agreement with Wanxiang brings in needed cash flow and gives A123 Systems access to vehicle electrification and grid-scale energy storage in China.

Republican House of Representative Cliff Stearns questioned the safety of the agreement, writing in a statement that, "It appears the Department of Energy and the Obama administration have failed to secure sensitive taxpayer funded intellectual property from being transferred to a foreign adversary, which raises serious national security issues. ... There is definitely a growing concern about foreign- controlled or owned companies attempting to gain a foothold into our supply chain in the United States. We need to make sure the Federal government isn't an unwitting accomplice to the theft of our own national secrets by providing them with multimillion-dollar government grants and loans."

Making battery packs for electric vehicles is not an easy business to break into. Automakers tend to build them in-house or hire a veteran company like Panasonic. For battery companies, supplier contracts help, but are not a guarantee. Battery maker Ener1 found this out when the Norwegian carmaker Think stopped production of its Think City electric car at its Elkhart, IN, assembly plant. As for A123 Systems, it's been a rough ride, but things could be looking up.
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A123 Systems Announces Non-Binding Memorandum of Understanding With Wanxiang Group Corporation for Strategic Investment

WALTHAM, Mass., Aug. 8, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A123 Systems (Nasdaq:AONE), a developer and manufacturer of advanced Nanophosphate® lithium iron phosphate batteries and systems, today announced that it has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Wanxiang Group Corporation establishing the framework for a strategic investment through which Wanxiang would invest up to $450 million in A123. Wanxiang is China's largest automotive components manufacturer and one of China's largest non-government-owned companies. Wanxiang's proposed investment in A123 is intended to create the capital structure necessary for the company to continue growing its core businesses, and alignment with Wanxiang is also expected to substantially strengthen A123's access to the growing vehicle electrification and grid-scale energy storage markets in China. A123 will hold a conference call today at 8:00 a.m. ET to discuss this announcement as well as the company's financial results for the second quarter 2012.

"Today's announcement is the first step toward solidifying a strategic agreement that we believe would remove the uncertainty regarding A123's financial situation," said David Vieau, CEO of A123. "A substantial capital investment from Wanxiang would not only provide financial stability to A123 as we continue to grow, but it would also align us with a large, successful global brand in the automotive and cleantech industries. Wanxiang has a successful track record of operating in the U.S. with significant employment and commitment to good corporate citizenship, and we expect that a strategic agreement with Wanxiang would help enhance our competitive position in the global marketplace, especially in China."

Wanxiang Group Corporation and its related companies have more than $13 billion in revenue and more than 45,000 employees across its global businesses in equipment and automotive parts manufacturing, clean energy, financial services, agricultural products, natural resources and real estate, among others. Through its subsidiaries, including Wanxiang America Corporation, it has more than 3,000 U.S.-based employees.

"A123 offers industry-leading technology for vehicle electrification and grid-scale energy storage, as well as strong manufacturing and systems engineering capabilities in Michigan and Massachusetts. We think this creates important synergies with Wanxiang, which has been involved in this field for 12 years and has strong R&D and manufacturing capabilities in China, especially as we continue to expand on our strategy of investing in the automotive and cleantech industries in the U.S.," said Weiding Lu, CEO of Wanxiang Group. "This MOU is the first step toward a longer-term agreement through which we plan to build on the foundation A123 has established in the U.S. and help expand the company's capabilities both domestically and internationally, which we believe would create long-term value to the customers, investors and other stakeholders of both companies."

Under the proposed terms of the strategic agreement outlined in the MOU, Wanxiang would provide A123 with up to $75 million in initial debt financing under a Senior Secured Bridge Facility, with an initial credit extension of $25 million and $50 million to be funded after the satisfaction of certain closing conditions, and, subsequently, upon satisfaction of certain closing conditions, purchase $200 million aggregate principal amount of A123's Senior Secured Convertible Notes. The agreement would also include the potential for Wanxiang to invest up to an additional $175 million if it exercises the warrants that would be issued in connection with the Bridge Facility and the Convertible Notes for cash. Incurrence of the remaining $50 million of loans under the Senior Secured Bridge Facility would be subject to the satisfaction of certain approvals and conditions, including receipt of favorable determination from CFIUS and receipt of Chinese government approvals. Issuance of the Convertible Notes and the related warrants would also be subject to additional conditions, including approval from A123's shareholders, termination of the Hart-Scott-Rodino waiting period, the conversion or redemption of all the outstanding six percent Convertible Notes and relevant warrants and the repurchase or retirement of at least 90 percent of A123's outstanding 3.75 percent convertible subordinated notes due 2016.

According to the proposed terms of the strategic agreement, if the entire amount of the initial debt financing is provided to A123 and the full amount of the warrants and Convertible Notes are issued and exercised for cash, Wanxiang's total capital investment in A123 from these agreements would total approximately $450 million. The total amount of shares of A123's common stock issuable upon exercise and conversion of the warrants and Convertible Notes would represent approximately 80 percent of the then outstanding common stock of A123. While the MOU is non-binding and the execution of definitive documentation is subject to negotiation and, among other items, the amendment of agreements with certain of A123's existing lenders, A123 and Wanxiang are currently negotiating definitive documentation and intend to close the full transaction by the end of 2012. A123 cannot provide any assurance, however, that definitive documentation will be executed, or, if it is executed, that the conditions to funding the full investment will be fulfilled.

This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell nor a solicitation of an offer to buy any of these securities, nor shall there be any offer, solicitation or sale of these securities in any state in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to the registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such state.