Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tesla Motors revs up for initial public offering

SAN FRANCISCO — As Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley-based maker of sleek, high-performance electric cars, steers its highly anticipated public stock offering toward today's debut, hopes are running high that the company can plug into a rich vein of ready cash stretching from the West Coast all the way to Wall Street.
Tesla, whose top-end Roadster model sells for more than $100,000, was founded in 2003 by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and Chief Technical Officer J.B. Straubel. It has yet to turn a profit.

Nonetheless, the stock is likely to attract a cult following, said Scott Sweet, senior managing partner of IPO Boutique.

At a time when Detroit stalwart GM also is gearing for a return to the public markets, the unconventional Tesla is becoming the first American car maker to go public since Ford Motor Co. first brought its shares to the New York Stock Exchange in 1956.

Tesla is focusing on its clean-energy technology as a selling point, hoping to tap into growing consumer interest for hybrid vehicles in an era of higher oil prices.

And Sweet said there is, in fact, strong demand for Tesla shares. He said the Tesla IPO is "multiple times oversubscribed" at the retail and institutional levels, which suggests the deal could be priced at the high end of the planned $14-to-$16-a-share range.

On Monday, Tesla boosted the number of shares it plans to offer in the deal by 20 percent to 13.3 million shares, of which insider holdings will constitute 1.4 million shares.

In all, the deal could raise $244 million. Sweet surmises the stock could pop by 10 percent to 15 percent over the offer price in first-day trading. Tesla will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol TSLA.

Handling the offering are Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank Securities.

Immediately after the IPO, Tesla plans to sell $50 million in shares to Toyota Motor Corp. The electric-car maker recently agreed to buy Toyota's Fremont, Calif., manufacturing facility for $42 million.

Musk, 38, founded Tesla after helping launch PayPal, an electronic-payment system acquired by eBay Inc. in 2002, and Zip2 Corp., a provider of Internet enterprise software acquired by Compaq in 1999. He is expected to own 28 percent of Tesla stock after the IPO.

In recent years, there has been a shift in the IPO market to companies showing actual profits — versus mere potential — before selling shares to the public.

Tesla does not expect to make a quarterly profit until at least 2012. Through March 31, the company's net loss since inception approaches $300 million. It generated $147.6 million in revenue the last five years.

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