After suffering losses despite explosive revenue growth, Carpinteria-based wind turbine maker Clipper Windpower has sold 49.5 percent of the company to industrial giant United Technologies Corp. for $270 million.
The transaction, announced Dec. 9, sets into motion a battle between U.S. industrial giants for the large wind turbine market. Clipper’s primary U.S. rival and the other major turbine maker is General Electric.
Despite huge revenue growth, Clipper Windpower has struggled with the credit crunch and recession. The company laid off 90 employees at its Cedar Rapids, Iowa, plant – 11 percent of its workforce – earlier this year and turned in a $313 million loss in 2008. The losses and job cuts came despite revenue that increased to $737 million from $24 million the year before.
Clipper announced Sept. 30 that it would look for an investor. Company officials said United Technologies, with its strong manufacturing focus in aerospace and defense, made a good partner. Pertz said the partnership would make it easier for both Clipper and its customers to finance big projects, a process that’s been difficult because of tight credit.
“This is truly a transformational deal for Clipper, with benefits to all of our stakeholders,” Doug Pertz, president and chief executive of Clipper, said in a conference call with investors Dec. 10. “It significantly strengthens Clipper’s balance sheet, provides a strong financial partner and enables the company to solidify its operations while pursuing its strategic initiatives.”
For its part, United Technologies said it “expects to work closely with Clipper Windpower to improve the company’s core technology, manufacturing, product quality and supply management capabilities,” the firm said in a release.
About 40 percent of the stock in the transaction will come from new shares created for the deal. The rest will come from an offer that United Technologies has agreed to make for existing shares of the company, which trade on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange.
Those shares have taken a beating in recent months. Clipper Chief Financial Officer Michael Keane said on the Dec. 10 conference call that United Technologies’ offer price is a 20 percent premium to the stock’s current trading price and a 23 percent premium to the shares’ initial sale price.
The deal still needs Clipper’s shareholder approval and a green light from regulators before it becomes final.