BrightSource Energy, a developer of solar thermal technology for large generating systems, drove home that point on Thursday when it announced it is withdrawing a planned $183 million initial public “due to adverse market conditions.” The Oakland-based company had previously raised an eye-popping $572 million from backers including VantagePoint Venture Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Chevron Technology Ventures, with which it is building a demonstration facility.
The announcement came on the heels of a sluggish period for alternative energy companies. So far this year, there have been just two U.S. IPOs of venture-backed cleantech companies: Ceres, a developer of bioenergy crops, and Enphase Energy, which develops solar micro-inverter systems. As of Thursday, both were trading above their initial offer price. However, Ceres went public only after slashing its proposed share price by more than a third, while Enphase priced at the bottom of its expected range.
Meanwhile, several biofuel companies filed to public last year but have not yet carried out IPOs. They include Coskata and Mascoma, which are seeking $100 million each, and Fulcrum BioEnergy, which is seeking $115 million.The first quarter brought new filings as well. Enerkem, a Montreal-based developer of technology to produce ethanol from municipal solid waste, filed plans in February for a $130.5 million offering.
It’s not just cleantech that’s seeing delays on the path to IPO pipeline. Last year, there were 274 companies that filed initial registration statements for U.S. offerings. Of those, 171 remained in the IPO pipeline as of year-end, according to a PwC report. And only a handful have made it out since. In general, it’s taking companies longer to go public after initially filing for an IPO, the firm says.
Whether the BrightSource withdrawal is an isolated event for the biofuel sector, or an indication of more to come, remains to be seen.
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