Ceres Power and Weichai finalize strategic collaboration and JV agreement on SOFCs; range-extenders for buses
Ceres Power, a developer of low-cost solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC)company, and Weichai Power, one of the leading automobile and equipment manufacturing companies in China, finalized their long-term strategic collaboration first announced in May 2018. (Earlier post.)
This includes a Joint Venture Agreement with the commitment to create a fuel cell manufacturing JV in China, a License Agreement to transfer key technology to the JV and a new £9-million (US$11.5-million) joint development agreement. It also triggers a further £28-million (US$35.8-million) equity injection into Ceres Power.
The JV will target the rapidly growing Chinese market opportunity for fuel cells which addresses the decarbonization and air quality needs in the transportation and power generation markets. The bus market in China, along with the commercial vehicle and stationary power markets, create a potential multi-billion dollar market opportunity for the JV.
The strategic collaboration with Weichai includes:
A new Joint Development Agreement (JDA) for £9 million following on from the initial JDA which the parties previously signed. This accelerates development of the 30 kW SteelCell SOFC range extender system using widely available Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), with systems for 10 buses set to be developed and trialed in the next two years. Successful completion of the trials will lead to the JV formation which is anticipated to be in 2020.
Joint Venture and Technology Transfer. Upon successful completion of field trials under the JDA, Weichai and Ceres will establish a Fuel Cell Manufacturing Joint Venture in Shandong Province, China with an initial 51%:49% respective shareholding. Weichai and Ceres will fund pro rata shares of the JV in accordance with an agreed business plan. Weichai will hold three of the five board seats and Ceres will hold two with certain shareholder protection provisions in place.
The JV will manufacture SteelCell systems, stacks and fuel cells in accordance with the License Agreement after their respective technology transfers from Ceres. The Licence Agreement provides a mixture of exclusive and non-exclusive rights for the commercial vehicle, bus and certain stationary power markets in China. Ceres will be paid up to £30 million (US$38.4 million) for the staged program of Technology Transfer as well as ongoing royalties and future dividend payments.
Equity Investment. Weichai will shortly exercise its warrant at an exercise price of 164.5p per share, investing a further £28 million of equity in addition to its previous £20 million investment. This increases its shareholding in Ceres from just under 10% to 20%. This brings its total equity investment in Ceres to £48 million (US$61.4 million). The use of funds includes investment in Ceres’ core fuel cell business and manufacturing scale up in the UK as well as the initial equity investment in the JV.
In accordance with the existing Relationship Agreement, Weichai has an eighteen-month standstill from May 2018 under which it agrees not to acquire more than 20% of Ceres Power’s issued share capital and includes an eighteen month minimum holding period from December 2018 on the proposed shareholding. Weichai will also nominate a non-executive director to the Board of Ceres Power.
This is a major strategic milestone for Ceres. Establishing manufacturing capability in China with a partner as strong as Weichai will enable our SteelCell technology to benefit from the kind of economies of scale and significantly lower costs we have seen in the solar and battery industries. Weichai is one of the largest automotive and engine manufacturers in China. This agreement represents a scale-changing opportunity for Ceres.—Ceres Power CEO Phil Caldwell
We have made a strong start to our partnership with Ceres and we are delighted to extend our relationship. We see significant commercial potential for using the SteelCell to help us develop cutting edge fuel cell power systems. We look forward to trialing the new range extender and also to developing new products for the transportation and stationary power generation markets in China.—Tan Xuguang, Chairman and CEO of Weichai