Two Groups Eyeing Purchase of Better Place: American Jews and Canadian Investors

Two potential buyers join the fray to purchase the Israeli electric vehicle network operator, which recently announced bankruptcy.

Two additional possible buyers for Better Place, the bankrupt operator of an electric-vehicle refueling system, have emerged in recent days − one a group of American Jews and the second a group of Canadian investors.

The U.S. group is led by Yosef Abramowitz, a well-known figure in the Israeli solar-power industry, who yesterday confirmed that he has begun due diligence process on the company and had made contact with various government bodies about state aid.

The Canadian investors, from Quebec, have made contact with Better Place’s court-appointed liquidators in recent days about the possibility of buying the company.

The two bidding groups join Israel Electric Corporation and the French power company EDF, both of which have expressed interest mainly in Better Place’s nationwide network of vehicle-recharging stations. They want to buy not only the recharging devices themselves, but the computer network that operates them and keeps drivers posted about their energy needs.

But they are not interested in the battery-changing stations, which are another critical part of the Better Place network.

Better Place has installed about 1,850 recharging stations in Israel, two thirds of them privately owned, although the infrastructure required to operate them belongs to the company. It also operates 38 battery-changing stations.

Abramowitz led an investor group of Americans to form the solar venture Arava Power. Three years later it sold a 40% stake to Siemens Project Ventures, an infrastructure investment arm of the German company, at a $37.5 million company valuation. But Arava Power will not be involved in the Better Place acquisition.

Today, Abramowitz is head of Energiya Global, which is developing electric power projects in Africa with the backing of the U.S. government.

“What Better Place needs is a new and more modest business model, and government regulations that support it,” he told TheMarker. “Goliath has fallen and now it’s little David’s turn. If the government can provide some basic help, nothing difficult, together with good will we have reason to be optimistic.

“Israel can’t fail in this green enterprise,” he maintained. “It must save it because if it fails, in the future it will be 10 times as difficult to enter the electric vehicle market. If the drivers want someone with proven experience opposite the government and the ability to bring money, then we can do it.”

Along with potential buyers, Better Place’s liquidators, attorneys Sigal Rozen-Rechav and Shaul Kotler, have been meeting since the company filed for bankruptcy just over a week ago with its remaining employees, as well as suppliers such as IBM and Renault.

Rozen-Rechav and Kotler have undertaken to recruit potential buyers, such as the American electric car company Tesla. Their ultimate goal, they have said, is to find a buyer who will provide a solution for the employees and the owners of Better Place cars.

At the same time, they have been holding talks with Renault and its Israeli importer Carasso Motors to weigh alternatives in case Better Place is not sold.

Some Better Place drivers are taking matters into their owns hands, with one group seeking to form a cooperative to buy the recharging stations and provide customer service.

Tomer Appelbaum
Eyal Toueg