In a previous article, we discussed the meteoric rise of Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG) shares which are trading up over +3000% from one year ago today. Other publicly traded fuel cell companies have been on a tear lately as well. Investors that are now thinking of investing in any of these publicly traded fuel cell companies should be aware of a private company, Bloom Energy, that may well go public soon and which could prove to be a leader in the fuel cell space.
Founded in 2001, Silicon Valley based Bloom Energy has taken in over $1.1 billion in funding so far from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Apex Venture Partners, Mobius Venture Capital, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse. To put this amount of funding into perspective, Bloom Energy is now one of the five largest recipients of VC funding in history. The latest round of funding in mid-2013 was for $130 million, $100 million of which came from European energy company E.ON. E.ON is one of the world’s leading renewables companies with $183 billion in sales in 2012.
Bloom’s Board of Directors includes representation from major investors along with General Colin Powell (American statesman and a retired four-star general), T.J. Rodgers, (founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor) and John Doerr who is a member of the “President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board“. With Google as their first customer in 2008, Bloom Energy’s customer list now includes AT&T, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Walmart, eBay, Apple, and many others. A cursory search of the USPTO shows 83 patents with Bloom Energy as the assignee.
Bloom Energy’s Fuel Cells
Bloom builds solid oxide fuel cells which can generate electricity from natural gas and oxygen without combustion. The “Bloom Energy Server” provides 200kW of power, enough to meet the baseload needs of 160 average homes or an office building, day and night.
The Bloom Energy Server or “Bloom Box” is a modular stack of fuel cells that are built from low cost materials, are highly efficient (60%), and can operate using either renewable or fossil fuels. Bloom has deployed the largest utility installation in the United States (150 X 200KW units) as well as their recent first deployment in Japan. Bloom has more than 100 MW of Bloom Energy Servers installed in the United States now, all of which are monitored in real time. Last year, Bloom announced a new leasing program with Bank of America Merrill Lynch for business customers to finance Bloom Energy projects. The company has a 210,000 square feet in Sunnyvale California employing over 1,000 people and as of July last year, has been producing fuel cells at their new 210,000 square feet manufacturing facility in Delaware.
An IPO in 2014?
The stationary fuel cell market is expected to experience very strong growth over the coming years with Navigant Research forecasting that global stationary fuel cell revenue will grow from $1.4 billion in 2013 to $40.0 billion in 2022. In November 2012, Bloom CFO Bill Kurtz told Fortune in an official statement:
On a pro-forma basis Bloom has become gross margin positive in 2012 and is on track with our goal to be profitable in 2013. Bloom is operating with a fully funded business plan.
Speculation abounds in the cleantech community that 2014 just might be the year that Bloom Energy debuts an IPO. Scott Sandell, general partner of Bloom Energy investor New Associates, stated in late 2012 that Bloom energy will likely attempt an IPO in late 2013 or early 2014. Based on all the speculations over the years about Bloom Energy’s progress, fuel cell investors will likely find some very salivating information in the initial S-1 filing of which may cause investors in existing fuel cell companies such as Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG) a bit of concern.
Investors should also note that shares of Bloom energy have been available on SharesPost, a leading specialist in the private securities market. Shares have been offered to accredited investors with a minimum purchase of $50,000 and a 5% commission subject to availability. Since 2011, SharesPost has completed over 2,000 private company equity transactions totaling $1 billion.