The privately held company, which skyrocketed to public prominence in 2010 after a CBS News "60 Minutes" profile, has raised a whopping $1.2 billion in funding since inception—including $130 million last December in a convertible note offering—from the likes of New Enterprise Associates and Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers (Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr is on Bloom's board; Al Gore remains a Kleiner Perkins partner today). Madrone Capital, associated with the Walton family of Wal-Mart, has also invested in the company. As of 2014, Bloom had installed more than 130 megawatts of its fuel cell units in the U.S.
But one question hangs over Bloom Energy: Why hasn't it gone public yet?
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While the company declined to comment for this article, analysts and investors have their own theories. "People suspect that they're one of the companies in the queue to try to see if there's money in the public markets," said Troy Ault, director of research at the Cleantech Group.
In 2012, Bloom investor and board member Scott Sandell, who was unavailable for an interview, said Bloom would attempt an IPO in late 2013 or early 2014. Those dates have come and gone and have left observers of the cleantech industry wondering. "Anything less than an IPO or a big acquisition would be a disappointment to the firm's investors and shareholders," wrote Greentech Media's Eric Wesoff in December. So is 2015 the year Bloom Energy files for an IPO?
Michael Dempsey, a research executive at venture capital research firm CB Insights pointed to the $130 million via convertible note as a sign of an equity valuation that could be aggressive. A convertible note is often a signal that another equity round could only have been executed at a reduced valuation.
Kathleen Smith, principal at IPO tracker Renaissance Capital, said an IPO for Bloom makes some sense in the current market because alternative energy deals have fared reasonably well. But investors are valuation sensitive. The IPO market may not be ready to pay high premiums off the last rounds of private financing, and on the other side, Bloom's private investors may not be willing to accept a valuation markdown triggered by an IPO.
"This company was supposed to be public by now, and investors are going to need a big exit with the funding they've raised," Dempsey said.