Energy Department Hired Restructuring Adviser for Fisker Loan

The Department of Energy hired an outside restructuring adviser last year to keep tabs on Fisker Automotive’s financing efforts, according to a Bloomberg report from last week. Houlihan Lokey, an advisory-focused investment bank, was retained last October at a cost of $1.35 million to provide “highly-specialized financial advisory services” for the agency. The DOE told Bloomberg it “often hires industry-leading consultants to supplement the work performed by experts in the program,” and that Houlihan Lokey was brought in to “provide expert assistance on a variety of projects in the portfolio.”

The timing of the hiring (which coincided with the DOE’s decision to delay approximately $336 million in unreleased loan funds to carmaker,) seems to imply that the agency may have been particularly concerned with Fisker.

Since unveiling its Karma at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, Fisker has faced several well-documented setbacks, including missed production dates, the potential loss of the DOE loan money, and most recently, an unfortunate manufacturing flaw in the Karma’s A-123 Systems-supplied lithium ion battery pack. In recent months, Fisker has brought in a new CEO, downgraded its 2012 production estimate for the Karma from 12,000 to 4000, and talked publicly about the possibility of moving production of its next vehicle―the recently-unveiled Fisker Atlantic―outside of the United States.

Still, there has been positive news to report for the carmaker. Fisker has delivered about 800 Karmas in its first few months of production (a milestone that took fellow plug-in vehicle startup Tesla roughly a year to complete,) bringing in more than $100 million in much-needed revenue. The company also announced this month that it had successfully raised more than $300 million in private capital in its latest round of financing, bringing its total private investment to close to $1 billion.

The test for Fisker―with or without the DOE loans―has always been whether it can keep enough money coming in to finance production of the Atlantic, which still has no finalized manufacturing site, much less a fully-equipped assembly line. With $400 million in new money on hand, we can hopefully expect to see the carmaker take steps to remedy that in the near future.


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