Hong Kong tycoon likely winner of U.S. loan to Fisker Auto-sources

Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:06am EDT
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By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - An investor group led by Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li is the likely winner of a government loan owed by Fisker Automotive, the now-dormant maker of plug-in hybrid sports cars, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Energy picked Li's group after an auction held Friday to sell the green-energy loan. The DOE and Li are now nailing down the final details of the sale, which has not yet closed, the people said.

Buying the loan would allow Li, the youngest son of Asia's richest man and an early Fisker investor, to restructure Fisker unencumbered by the obligations of the DOE funds and potentially avoid a bankruptcy filing that would wipe out equity investors.

Sources familiar with the company have said however that reviving Fisker outside of a bankruptcy would be an expensive and difficult process.

The people declined to be named because the details were private. The DOE said Thursday that the winner would be publicly announced once final negotiations were completed and the sale was closed. Fisker owes the DOE $168 million.

Li beat out at least two other groups vying to buy the loan in Friday's auction. They were German investment group Fritz Nols AG as well as a team that included Chinese auto parts supplier Wanxiang and former General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) executive Bob Lutz.

Fisker does not have enough money to pay its outstanding bills and has not built a car in about 15 months. Fisker laid off most of its employees in April to save cash.

The DOE said last month that it planned the auction after "exhausting any realistic possibility" that it could recoup the entire amount still owed by Fisker.   Continued...