Sungevity Declares Bankruptcy, Sells Assets, Gains Up To $20M to Continue ‘Uninterrupted’ Operations

Last week, GTM's Julian Spector asked who might want to buy the remaining assets of solar sales and installation company Sungevity at a discount.

The answer is Northern Pacific Group.

Sungevity just filed for Chapter 11 protection and entered into a court-ordered “asset purchase agreement” led by Northern Pacific Group that promises up to $20 million to fund day-to-day operations.

Another way to look at that is that whatever remains of Sungevity just got sold for up to $20 million. Sungevity had raised a total of $850 million in VC and project financing, with an estimated $200 million of that coming as equity funding.

“Northern Pacific Group will acquire substantially all of the company's assets, including the equity interests in the European operations.” according to a release which adds, “The purchase agreement sets the floor, or minimum acceptable bid, for an auction under the supervision of the court, which is designed to achieve the highest available offer.”

William Nettles is Sungevity's newly appointed chief administration officer.

GTM's Julian Spector broke the news last week of a 66 percent layoff of Sungevity's remaining workforce. At the time, the company had declined to pay severance or accrued vacation days — it handed out checks for the last pay period and sent people on their way. The company had already cut dozens of workers in January after an expected merger fell through at the close of 2016, taking with it the promise of a $200 million cash infusion. We covered that failed merger here.

As we reported, Sungevity's asset-light solar sales and installation approach did not stop cash burn. We covered Sungevity's financial dilemma in detail here.

Sungevity billed itself as a lean, “asset-light” residential solar company that could scale faster than the vertically integrated leaders like SolarCity, Vivint and Sunrun.

Sungevity's approach sounded good on paper: use software to generate quotes without the need for site visits, but outsource the hardware, installation and financing, keeping those off the balance sheet. The company could focus on customer relations without investing in all the capital-intensive parts of the solar business. A Forbes article from September called Sungevity's platform “a sophisticated departure from the way companies usually sell customers on solar.”

Sungevity's market share peaked at 2.5 percent in 2014 and was at 1.6 percent in Q3 2016, and total capacity installed peaked in Q1 2016, according to GTM Research data.

Even the lead generation, which appeared to be a key value-add of the model, was going out the door as Sungevity focused on turning itself into a “platform.” 

“Sungevity has started relying more on sales through channel partners as opposed to direct sales,” said Nicole Litvak, a senior analyst who covers the residential solar landscape at GTM Research. “They’re also not doing the financing, and they’re not doing the installation. Really, they’re mostly a software company at this point.”

Had Sungevity viewed itself as a solar software startup and licensed its customer acquisition platform for use by hands-on installers, it may have avoided the capital drain that comes from managing installations. Instead, the leadership split the difference, becoming a software company that's not quite an installer, and an installer that's not quite a software company. 

Sungevity has filed “a number of customary pleadings with the court, seeking authorization to pay certain prepetition obligations, support its business operations, and transition them through the sale process. These include the payment of employee wages, taxes, insurance, critical vendors, and utility providers, as well as the continuation of the company's customer support programs.”

Perhaps that means some ex-employees might receive pay for their accrued vacation days.

Northern Pacific Group is a MN-based private equity firm.

A final sale approval hearing and closing of the sale could take place by the end of April.

from GTM Solar


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