Orange County Business Journal

Feds Hire Houlihan Lokey to Track Fisker

Chris Casacchia Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Los Angeles investment bank has been contracted by the U.S. Department of Energy to track Anaheim-based Fisker Automotive Inc.’s fundraising efforts as it renegotiates a $529 million loan from the federal agency.

The Energy department hired Houlihan Lokey after holding up additional installments of a loan it agreed to provide the make of luxury hybrid vehicles in September 2009, according to Bloomberg.

The federal loan was part of a program designed to spur better the development of green technology among automakers.

Fisker had received $193 million of the loan, according to executives, with the remaining $336 million now subject to renegotiation. Government officials first moved to freeze the loan after Fisker was late to market with its first model, the $100,000 Karma sedan.

Fisker has raised more than $890 million in private funding to date, including a $23 million investment from A123 Systems Inc., its lithium-ion battery pack supplier. Other backers include Menlo park-based Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Palo Alto Investors LLC.

Most of Fisker’s funding so far has been earmarked for the production of the Karma, which began deliveries to customers earlier this year after production delays and a recall.

Criticism of the Energy department program has grown in the wake of some big loan setbacks, including defunct solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC in Fremont, which went bankrupt in August after receiving a $535 million loan from the energy department.

Fisker has said it remains hopeful of renegotiating terms of the loan from the energy department, but will also consider alternative sources of funding.

Earlier this month Fisker Chief Executive Tom Lasorda raised some eyebrows when he said the Anaheim-based luxury automaker’s next model could be built outside the U.S.

Fisker had planned production of its newly named Atlantic model at a former General Motors Co. plant in Delaware it purchased for $18 million.

The hybrid four-cylinder features four seats, a longer wheelbase and more trunk space.

The Atlantic is expected to sell for about $50,000 and is widely seen as a make or break model for Fisker and a bellwether for the electric-car industry.