SAN MATEO -- In a worrisome sign for the cleantech sector, SolarCity postponed its IPO plans late Tuesday, perhaps to reduce the price of shares below its original range.
The delay came after SolarCity Chairman Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, made the unusual move of stepping in to buy $15 million worth of shares, or 12 percent of the total offering. Musk's willingness to put more skin in the company he helped found was intended to boost investor interest.
It wasn't clear Tuesday evening if the IPO is simply being delayed for a day or two or if there are more serious problems that could lead the company to shelve plans to go public. SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive could not immediately be reached for comment, and calls to the company's press office were not returned.
Solar companies, particularly manufacturers, have been battered for months. The "solar curse" began with the bankruptcy of Fremont solar manufacturer Solyndra in 2011, which cast a long shadow over the industry. In April, Oakland-based BrightSource Energy canceled its IPO plans at the final hour.
"We're hearing they're reducing the price below the range in order to fill the order book," Sam Hamadeh, the head of New York-based financial analysis firm PrivCo, wrote in an email Tuesday. PrivCo said underwriters on SolarCity's IPO began contacting investors who had
San Mateo-based SolarCity originally hoped to price its shares at $13 to $15 a share Tuesday after the market close and was to begin trading on the Nasdaq exchange Wednesday under the symbol SCTY. At the midrange point of $14 a share, the company would have raised $140 million.
Founded in 2006, SolarCity does not manufacture solar panels, focusing instead on installation. While the prices of solar panels have been hammered by a supply glut, hurting manufacturers, installers have benefitted because solar power is now affordable for more consumers.
SolarCity's IPO underwriters include Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Bank of America's Merrill Lynch.
Silicon Valley hasn't seen a big cleantech IPO since Tesla's blockbuster debut in June 2010, and SolarCity's IPO was widely seen as an important bellwether by investors and entrepreneurs.
SolarCity was cofounded by brothers Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive of South Africa and Musk, their cousin.
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.