Westly: We’ll have a dozen cleantech IPOs

Steve Westly is predicting that the moribund market for new public offerings is about to wake up.

Westly, the former California state controller and founder of Menlo Park, Calif.-based cleantech investment firm The Westly Group, predicts there will be a dozen clean technology IPOs in the next 12 months. Some of them, he said, will be blockbusters.

Westly was speaking last week at Financing the Cleantech Vision, a conference in Palo Alto, Calif., that was hosted by Venture Capital Journal, an affiliated publication to PE Week.

There’s been little indication of such public market appetite in recent months. So far this year, there have been only been 13 U.S. IPOs priced in any industry, down from 35 during the same period last year, which was also a comparatively dismal period for new offerings. On the new filings front, the situation compares even more poorly, with just 12 IPOs filed this year, down 89% from last year, according to IPO market researcher Renaissance Capital.

However, the IPO pace has picked up in recent weeks, with three new offerings last week, though none in the energy space.

Who’s on the short list for cleantech blockbuster? Westly suggested one likely IPO candidate is Silver Spring Networks, a Redwood City, Calif.-based developer of smart grid technology that has raised $168 million in venture funding since 2003 from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital and others. Silver Spring has certainly proven it can generate buzz. The company was a top pick from a few attendees of the cleantech conference last week when asked to name a likely cleantech IPO hit.

Another favorite pick was Solyndra Inc., the Fremont, Calif.-based developer of photovoltaic systems for commercial rooftops has raised $226 million in venture funding to date from Rockport Capital, U.S. Venture Partners, CMEA Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.

One company that’s expected to debut sooner is lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems, which is already in registration for an IPO and recently filed an amended prospectus.

Magma Energy could also be a contender, though it’s making its public market debut in Canada. The Vancouver-based geothermal company, according to news sources, filed a preliminary prospectus late last week and is looking to raise about $50 million in an offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

None of the suggested companies, however, are portfolio companies of Westly’s venture firm.

Of course, the company that’s been top-listed in the IPO rumor that would deliver the largest return for Westly is his own portfolio company, electric car maker Tesla Motors. The venture-backed San Carlos, Calif.-based company, which makes the $105,000 electric Roadster Sport, said it will use $365 million of its $465 million loan that it received last week from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a Southern California factory for its upcoming Model S, a $49,900 sedan. —Joanna Glasner