30 Solar Finance & VC

Eric Wesoff: September 14, 2010

MiaSolé Raising $100M and Preparing for 2011 Solar IPO

The CIGS PV maker says it can achieve 15.5 percent efficiency and 70 cents per watt by the end of 2012, according to a note from an investor.

We've received a document published by Pittsburgh's Birchmere Ventures, an investor in copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) manufacturer MiaSolé. It outlines the company's $100 million fundraising round, its product plans, and its 2011 IPO plans.

According to the the document, "MiaSolé is now raising a $100 million Series F round to build out manufacturing and prepare for an IPO in 11H2; Morgan Stanley is the sole placement agent and will be lead underwriter of the IPO.  Due to the generally difficult state of the capital markets over the past two years, and the failure of some other highly-funded solar startups to achieve their milestones, solar investments have fallen out of current favor.  The resultant decline in public and private solar company valuations is impacting MiaSolé, also, in spite of the company’s solid performance -- this will be a down round.  The company recently received a term sheet from prominent Silicon Valley venture fund priced at a significant reduction in value in contrast to the Series E valuation (Birchmere sourced this new lead investor for the company).  This valuation and other deal terms are still subject to negotiation."

The document continues, "Our confidence in MiaSolé’s management team, execution, scalability, and market opportunity are higher than ever, so we view this final private round as a compelling opportunity to invest at a more attractive price in a company that is projected to IPO next year.  As such, we are creating a sidecar fund to participate alongside Birchmere Ventures IV in MiaSolé’s Series F with existing investors Firelake Capital Management, Vantage Point Partners, and Kleiner Perkins. Morgan Stanley projects an IPO (market conditions permitting) when the company is shipping 13 percent efficiency modules and producing modules for less than $0.80/W, conservatively valued at 2x-3x the Series F valuation with significantly greater upside potential if we hold our shares longer."

Birchmere has been an active investor in cleantech for several years and has developed an investment thesis that projects the solar market to transition from a demand-constrained market to a supply-constrained market as solar module prices converge with conventional grid electricity prices.  They expect this to occur around 2014, depending on local electricity rates and when solar modules are selling for less than $1.00/W.  They anticipate MiaSolé will be producing modules for less than $0.80/W in the next few quarters and will be selling modules for less than $1.00/W by 2014.

Birchmere had to create a "sidecar fund" in order to make this investment, because the amount exceeds their new fund’s single-investment limit. 

The Birchmere document goes on to outline MiaSolé's roadmap, many details we've already covered in our reporting here.  The details:

The company is making extremely aggressive cost and conversion efficiency trajectory claims.  Getting from 10.5 percent to 15.5 percent efficiency -- five percentage points in two years -- has never been done by any solar firm. 

We contacted Joe Laia, MiaSolé’s CEO, for comment, and he said that the timing of the IPO was not yet defined and the placement agent for the IPO was not finalized.

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