HelioVolt in acquisition talks

AUSTIN, TEXAS - Solar power start-up HelioVolt Corp, which recently put itself up for sale, is in exclusive talks with one potential acquirer, a board director said.

"There are a bunch of people who are interested," Scott Sandell, a general partner with venture capital firm and HelioVolt investor New Enterprise Associates, said in an interview. "We're in a period of exclusivity right now with one interested party."

Sandell, who sits on HelioVolt's board, would not name the interested company. He said a deal announcement could come in a matter of weeks.

HelioVolt is one of a handful of venture capital-backed companies that make photovoltaic solar panels out of copper indium gallium selenide CIGS rather than the traditional polysilicon.

According to Sandell, the Austin, Texas-based company's investors decided a few months ago, that "we really needed to find a partner that could bring a lot more capital to bear."

Solar panels made from CIGS cells are less efficient at turning sunlight into electricity than traditional silicon cells, but they are also less costly to manufacture. CIGS has been slow to enter the commercial market because the complicated manufacturing process needed to combine four materials has slowed mass production.

"The company deserves a partner that will fund it properly," Sandell said. "It's that simple."

HelioVolt is one of several clean technology start-ups in NEA's portfolio of investments.

The firm is also an investor in fuel cell maker Bloom Energy, electric carmaker Fisker and a handful of solar companies. Of those, Sandell said Suniva Inc, based in Norcross, Georgia, was most likely to pursue an initial public offering within the next one to two years.

"They are just at a scale in terms of production and revenues that I think would be appealing to public market investors," Sandell said.

Sandell also oversees NEA's activities in China, where the firm has invested about $400 million. Investing in the growth of private healthcare in the world's most populous nation is a particularly strong opportunity, Sandell said.


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