Green technology VC investment lingered in the doldrums and green IPOs all but dried up in the third quarter of 2012. So says the Cleantech Group in its latest installment of global investment figures for green industries.
But amidst an investment climate that remains cloudy to stormy, there are some bright spots, including a potential IPO for SolarCity, a leading startup in the solar project financing field that’s benefited from falling solar prices that have decimated solar manufacturers.
Green VC investment stood at $1.6 billion in the third quarter, which is level with the second quarter’s tally. That isn’t much consolation, however, given that $1.6 billion represents a 30 percent decline from the $2.23 billion invested in the same quarter last year. Deal count also fell to 148, compared to 169 in the same quarter last year.
Overall, Cleantech Group is projecting 2012 will end up seeing only $6.8 billion in green VC, a 28-percent decline from $9.4 billion last year, CEO Sheeraz Haji said in a Tuesday conference call.
Third-quarter green mergers and acquisitions also declined to $35 billion, compared to $77 billion in the same quarter of last year, Haji said. As for IPOs, four more companies -- Elevance, Genomatica, Coskata and Smith Electric Vehicles -- pulled their public offerings in the third quarter, although Elevance and Genomatica also raised investments to make up for it.
China, which has been holding most of the green IPOs of late, also saw a dearth of public offerings in the third quarter, Haji said. China’s solar sector, which has been suffering the fruits of its own price-slashing business approach, has seen 10 IPOs withdrawn so far this year, he noted.
Indeed, solar has fallen from grace with investors across the globe, with publicly traded companies at near all-time lows and VC-backed firms like MiaSolé selling for fire-sale prices. Third-quarter solar investment added up to only $70 million, compared to $1.3 billion in the third quarter of 2008 -- a stark measure of how far the sector has fallen.
Across industry sectors, Cleantech Group found a decline both in deal totals and numbers of deals, for both early-stage and later-stage investment. Average deal size fell to $11.6 million in the third quarter, compared to $12.9 million in the same quarter last year and more than halfway below their third-quarter 2008 peak of $32 million.
Early-stage deals were particularly hard to come by, Haji noted. Average size for entry-level investments dropped to $2.5 million in the third quarter, compared to $5.5 million last year and $9 million back in the third quarter of 2008.
Top VC deals for the quarter included $136 million for Alarm.com, $104 million for Elevance, $104 million for Fisker Automotive, $84 million for Protean, $60 million for Blu Homes, $41 million for Genomatica, $40 million for Lilliputian Systems, $33 million for EcoMotors and $31 million for Solix.
Meanwhile, everyone’s looking to the healthy solar project financing sector to help revive greentech’s IPO doldrums -- and more specifically, to SolarCity, which released details of its $201 million IPO plans last week. The Redwood City, Calif.-based residential solar aggregator reported revenues of $71.4 million for the first six months of 2012 compared to $20.3 million in the same period last year.
But it also reported a loss of $23.1 million so far this year, compared to a year-earlier profit of $11.9 million. Whether investors are willing to accept losses in exchange for revenue growth potential will doubtless be a key factor in SolarCity’s prospects in the public markets, Haji said.
Haji also took time on Tuesday’s conference call to note Cleantech Group’s recent merger with GreenOrder, a corporate sustainability consultancy that’s well known for leading General Electric’s Ecomagination effort, and also works with the likes of Veolia, Électricité de France (EDF), HP and DOE. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.