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Monday, December 10, 2012

China Picks Up The Pieces Of U.S. Battery Manufacturer

SEARCH BLOG: CHINA and ECONOMY.

A123 Systems, Inc. is headquartered in Massachusetts with locations around the world.  But soon, its actual ownership will move to China.

A123 confirms Wanxiang wins bid for bankrupt battery maker

NEW YORK (Reuters) - China's largest maker of auto parts won an auction for A123 Systems Inc (AONEQ.PK), a bankrupt maker of batteries for electric cars that was funded partly with U.S. government money, A123 confirmed in a statement Sunday.
Wanxiang Group Corp's bid of $256.6 million topped a joint bid from Johnson Controls Inc (JCI) of Milwaukee and Japan's NEC Corp, for the maker of lithium-ion batteries.
The sale did not include A123's Michigan-based government business that works with the U.S. Defense Department, which was instead sold to Navitas Systems for $2.25 million, A123 said.
Actually, A123 Systems received a $250 million grant from the U.S. government and anther $140 million in tax credits from the State of Michigan.  The Michigan plant was sold for $2.25 million versus tax credits and subsidies about 65 times that.

One question is this: why is A123 attractive as an investment to the Chinese when it was a failure as an investment for the U.S. government?  Could be that the Chinese are buying the company for pennies on the dollar.  Could be that the technology is more valuable than the other assets.  Could be any number of reasons.

Another question: is the operating environment in the U.S. filled with too many barriers to success for new technology efforts?  Could be that government involvement came with too many strings.  Could be that A123 had good ideas and bad management.  Could be that the real market for A123 products was less than planned for and resulted in a bad financial situation from over-commitments..

But whatever the reason behind the bankruptcy, this was another government investment in alternative energy that went bust.  Maybe it's time for any government... state or federal... to quit picking winners and losers in the energy sector and let the marketplace do the picking.  There are just too many bad decisions being made by politicians who have drunk the electric car kool-aid.

Anybody want to buy a Chevy Volt?
..

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
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Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates

FEDERAL RESERVE & HOUSING

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February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
November 28, 2007 FED VICE CHAIRMAN DONALD KOHN
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."
http://www.reuters.com/

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
fed_rate_moves_425_small.gif
[Image from: CNNMoney.com]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)