Tesla IPO gets unexpected charge

By Associated Press
Posted June 29, 2010 at 11:03 a.m.

Shares of Tesla Motors Inc. climbed in their trading debut after the electric car maker’s expanded initial public offering raised more money than expected.

Tesla’s performance was a feat in a sour market that has forced many companies looking to raise funds through IPOs to accept lower prices to get deals done.
The offering  raised $226.1 million after selling 13.3 million shares for $17 apiece. It had expected to price 11.1 million shares at $14 to $16 per share.

But Tesla’s IPO came on a day when U.S. stocks fell more than 2 percent — following Asian and European markets lower — on worries that the economy is slowing. Tesla’s shares initially traded as high as $19, but pared that gain. The company’s shares rose 99 cents, or 5.8 percent, to $17.99 in midday trading.

The electric car maker, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is the first automaker to go public since Ford Motor Co. held its initial public offering in 1956.

Tesla is a bet on the electric car industry, which isn’t a big draw for U.S. consumers. The IPO also comes at a time when volatile broader markets have dampened investors’ taste for risk, particularly for companies with a history of losses or high debt levels.

The company hasn’t had a profitable quarter since it was founded in 2003. It has sold only 1,000 of its high-end Roadster sports cars.

Investors hope that a planned lower-priced car will have a broader appeal. The $50,000 four-door electric sedan, Model S, is slated to go on sale in  2012. Tesla aims to build 20,000 a year.

The company has a prominent backer in Toyota Motor Corp., which last month agreed to sell Tesla a plant in Fremont, Calif., and invest $50 million in the company. Tesla plans to use the plant to build the Model S. Tesla expects annual net losses until mass production of the Model S.

But Tesla will have heavy competition by the time the Model S is ready. Nissan Motor Co. is taking orders on its electric car, the Leaf, which gets 100 miles per charge and is priced at about $25,000 after tax credits. The Chevrolet Volt, an electric car with a gasoline range-extender, goes on sale by the end of this year with a $35,000 price tag.

Tesla shares are trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol TSLA.

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