French family-controlled holding company Bollore has today launched an initial public offering on the Paris Stock Exchange for its car battery business, which uses technology descended from the family firm’s original nineteenth-century paper manufacturing firm.
Blue Solutions, which has around 300 employees and is still in start up mode, set a price tag of €14.50 per share on the 10% stake in the business up for sale, valuing the company at €418 million. Within several hours the shares had jumped 30% above their issue price.
The group says the purpose of the IPO is not to raise development cash, which will come from Bollore, but to raise aware of its innovative lithium-metal-polymer (LMP) battery, which it has protected with over 400 patents.
In an interview with the Wall St Journal this week, sixth-gen Vincent Bollore said the investment could be risky, given the company is still in its early stages and expects to run at a loss until the second half of next year. “With technology, either you find it, or you don’t,” he said.
He compared the business to wine, cheese and cognac – which need time to develop. “To know if a battery is good takes time. There are just some products that need aging,” he said.
But Blue Solutions chief executive Gilles Alix said the offer was fully subscribed by institutional investors and the sums of money they stood to lose would be small change to them.
Bollore, which last year had revenues of €10.2 billion and has so far spent €1.7 billion on battery-related research, was founded in 1822 producing thin paper for roll-up cigarettes and bibles, and has committed to back Blue Solutions until 2016.
The LMP batteries it is developing are made from thin slices of film layered together to form a solid item.
Unlike traditional lithium-ion batteries they do not contain electrolytes, and are therefore not at risk of leaking. Lithium can react violently when exposed to water and therefore a leak poses a fire hazard.
This is a serious concern for electric car manufacturers, as proved earlier this month when the market value of Tesla Motors dropped by around $2.4 billion, when images of a battery fire in its Model S sedan were posted on an automotive blog following an accident in the US.