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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Th!nk pulls in additional $40m investment

Norway-based electric car firm Think is poised to move its expansion plans up a gear after announcing earlier today that it has raised $40m (£27m) in a new equity round.

The company, which recently launched its electric City car in a number of European markets, said that the oversubscribed equity round would allow it to accelerate product development and support its planned expansion into North America.

A spokesman for the company revealed the cash injection would also help the company move forward with plans to produce right-hand drive versions of its City model for a full launch in the UK and Japan by the beginning of next year. " We'll probably announce some form of partnership agreement in the UK before the end of 2010 and then launch right-hand drive models early next year," he added.

The latest equity round was backed by all the company's existing shareholders and co-led by RockPort Capital Partners and Ener1 Inc, the parent company of battery manufacturer EnerDel.

It takes the total sum of equity financing raised by Think to $87m since last August and significantly strengthens the company's position as it moves forward with plans for a new North American manufacturing plant that is expected to be backed by a low-cost loan from the US Department of Energy. The spokesman for the company said the loan application was "going well" and the company was hoping to start production at its planned Elkhart, Indiana plant from the first quarter of next year.

"This last round of equity marks a powerful vote of confidence by Think’s investors at a time when world capital markets are under great stress," said Think chief executive Richard Canny. "Completing our funding requirements will allow us to maintain momentum, accelerate key new initiatives and ensure that we capitalise on our first-to-market advantage."

He added that in addition to ramping up production of its own models, the company would also use the additional funding to pursue further electric vehicle drivetrain supply deals similar to those recently signed with a Japanese consortium including Mazda, Japan Post and Itochu Corporation.

The equity round completes a remarkable recovery for Think, which teetered on the brink of bankruptcy last year and had to seek Norwegian court protection. The company only left court protection last August after securing $47m in fresh funding and inking a deal with Finnish car manufacturing firm Valmet Automotive that saw production of the Think City switch to Valmet's plant in Finland.

The company subsequently embarked on a rapid expansion drive, launching the Think City car last year after becoming the first electric car to secure pan-European regulatory safety approval and CE certification and signing up customers across Europe.

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