In August, Chinese industrial giant Wanxiang announced its intent to rescue Waltham, Massachusetts-based lithium-ion battery manufacturer A123 from insolvency. In a memorandum of understanding released by the two companies, Wanxiang pledged to invest up to $450m in A123, provided that–among other things–A123 maintain its current level of R&D and engineering operations (including any associated personnel).This condition, along with Wanxiang’s past investment in struggling U.S. cleantech companies, appears to indicate that Wanxiang is interested in A123’s technical know-how.
A123’s patent assets may also be a factor. Transferred to Wanxiang earlier this year, A123’s patent portfolio is unlikely to be worth $450m on its own; however, it does represent the largest collection of U.S.-issued lithium iron phosphate (LFP) patents (and pending applications) owned by any company–domestic or otherwise–operating in the United States. For a company looking for business opportunities in the alternative energy storage space, this must be a highly attractive asset.