Assets of Fuel Cell Vendor ClearEdge Acquired by Korean Conglomerate for $32.4M
Doosan of South Korea, a conglomerate with $21 billion in 2013 revenue, just purchased the remains of bankrupt fuel-cell aspirant ClearEdge Power. The assets and debt sold for $32.4 million, according to the Yonhap News Agency, which reported that ClearEdge had 2013 revenue of $68 million. Dow Jones reports that the original bid was at a higher figure of $48 million, consisting of “$20 million in cash, up to $13 million in payments to vendors and landlords, and up to $15 million to cover secured creditor claims.”
Here’s a refresher on ClearEdge: The Hillsboro, Oregon-based company raised more than $136 million in VC funding since its founding in 2006 from Kohlberg Ventures, Applied Ventures (the investment arm of Applied Materials), Big Basin Partners, and Southern California Gas Company to develop and build a proton exchange membrane (PEM)-based fuel cell for residential and small commercial applications at hotels, multi-tenant buildings and schools.
Our understanding is that ClearEdge’s PEM fuel cell technology was never ready for the market.
So, in December 2012, ClearEdge acquired the fuel cell business of technology conglomerate United Technology Corporation (UTC). UTC Power was a maker of large-scale phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFCs), although the firm also has experience with PEM, alkaline, solid oxide, and molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFCs). In an earlier interview, then-CEO David Wright estimated that UTC invested roughly $1 billion in the technology over the last 30 to 40 years. ClearEdge switched out its core PEM product to the UTC phosphoric acid technology for its 5-kilowatt and 400-kilowatt products. The natural-gas-powered UTC 400-kilowatt fuel cell unit had a reputation in the industry as one of the higher-performing products. UTC Power was spun out of Pratt & Whitney in 1958 and supplied fuel cells to NASA for space missions from 1966 through 2010.
Around the same time as the April bankruptcy, Ballard Power acquired UTC’s transportation- and stationary-related fuel cell IP assets for $22 million, with $2 million in cash and the balance in common shares. Vancouver-based Ballard has not had a single profitable year since its founding in 1979.
Doosan has existing in-house experience with molten carbonate fuel cell technology and now has access to a wealth of fuel cell equipment and a significant legacy with the addition of ClearEdge/UTC.
In related fuel cell news, earlier this month, PEM fuel cell maker Intelligent Energy went public and raised $94.1 million. The company was valued at $811 million, making it the most highly valued publicly held fuel cell company in the world. We look a bit deeper at the fuel cell market here.