Opposition mounts against DOE-funded battery company’s sale to Chinese firm

U.S. energy company Johnson Controls — which Wanxiang outbid during the auction process — is also raising the alarm, hoping that CFIUS will block the deal and put A123 back on the table for Johnson Controls to purchase.

Johnson Controls unsuccessfully appealed the bankruptcy court’s decision in December 2012.

“It was clear in the bidding process that Wanxiang had a blank check, and we just got to a point where the value of the auction process exceeded to what we saw as the value of the estate,” Mary Ann Wright, vice president at Johnson Controls, told TheDC.

“The U.S. taxpayers have made significant investments in the battery manufacturing here in the United States, and with the exception of Johnson Controls, all of them have experienced significant difficulties, if not bankruptcy,” she said.

“We are the last standing of the U.S. battery manufacturers that remain healthy, committed to this industry and we’re committed to the point where we want to see A123 be able to be viable as a U.S. based company,” said Wright.

The Virginia-based political blog Politico reported this week that SMAC and Johnson Controls have close ties.

Wright was emphatic that the technology A123 possesses is first rate, but Derek Scissors, an Asia economist at the Heritage Foundation, told TheDC that he’s not convinced.

“No one thought it was advanced right up until the time the Chinese bought the company, and then the lobbyists got hired and suddenly it’s advanced,” he said.

On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers in December voiced their concern about the national security implications of the deal.

Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn announced on Tuesday her intention to introduce legislation later this month that would require Energy Department-funded companies “to report if they are being acquired by a non-allied foreign nation, and require the secretary of energy to report to Congress about whether the acquisition represents a threat to the United States.”