AUSTRALIA. “Sad day:” EV fast-charging company Tritium says it is insolvent, receivers to seek buyers

The troubled Australian electric vehicle fast charging company Tritium is facing financial collapse after its directors declared it to be insolvent, calling in voluntary administrators while its lenders also appointed a receiver to take control of the assets and seek buyers.

In a statement issued overnight to the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York, where it has been struggling to retain its listing because of a collapsing share price, the company said Tritium DCFC and three of its Australian subsidiaries were either insolvent or likely to become insolvent.

The directors said in a brief announcement to the US Securities and Exchange Commission overnight that they had appointed Peter Gothard, James Dampney and William Colwell from KPMG to act as voluntary administrators.

McGrathNicol Restructuring later said four of its partners – Shaun Fraser, Katherine Sozou, Matthew Hutton and Jamie Harris – had been appointed by lenders as Receivers and Managers of  Tritium DCFC Ltd, the Nasdaq listed company, and would manage the assets and seek buyers for the business.

“Our immediate focus is to stabilise operations and work closely with Tritium’s employees, customers and suppliers as we attempt to secure the best possible outcome for all parties,” Fraser said in a statement.

“A sale process for Tritium’s business and assets was underway prior to our appointment – we will be re-engaging as a matter of urgency with interested parties and the broader market to seek to find a long-term capital and/or ownership solution for Tritium.”

KPMG’s Gothard said later on Friday the Administrators would work with the receivers “to secure the assets and stabilise the business operations of Tritium to maximise the outcome for all concerned parties.”

On the top of mind for customers and consumers will be the maintenance of the public DCFC charging network, and the fate of the several hundred workers at the company’s Brisbane headquarters, which had remained an R&D hub. The answer to such questions might not be known until the first creditor’s meeting that must be held by April 26.

It’s an incredibly sad outcome for Tritium, which was a world pioneer in the rollout of EV fast charging infrastructure, despite the slow uptake of EVs in its home country.

It seized a more than 20 per cent share of the global market, a majority share of non-Tesla charging infrastructure in Australia and had an enormously successful listing on the Nasdaq in early 2022 which valued the company at up to $2 billion.

That listing delivered massive windfall returns in the “hundreds of millions” to its major backers, former coal barons Trevor St Baker and Brian Flannery.

But in the past year the company’s share price has collapsed, and it was facing a new threat of de-listing from the Nasdaq even after a 200-1 share consolidation that left it with too little stock to meet listing guidelines.

Its last listed share price valued the company at less than $US4 million. St Baker is believed to have retained a stake of around 24 per cent and had several significant loans with the company, while Flannery reportedly sold his remaining five per cent stake earlier this year.

Among the company’s problems were reliability issues, particularly with its first generation equipment, and last year it announced it would close its Brisbane factory and move production to its US base in Tennessee, where it employs 500 people. But it has failed to make a profit in recent years.

The company was founded by more than a decade ago by three university students who took on some of the world’s biggest car makers in the World Solar Challenge and went on to set up their own engineering firm. In 2012, they were asked to develop an EV fast-charger, which led to the RT50 DC fast charger.

The company says it has sold more than 13,000 DC fast chargers in more than 40 countries. At its peak it claimed to be the biggest maker of fast chargers in the US with a 30 per cent market share (unclear if this included the Tesla network), and a 75 per cent share in Australia, and one of the top three in Europe.

In Australia, it has been challenged by a number of players, including the rapidly expanding Tesla network that is now half open to other EV models, and competitors such as Kempower and ABB.

Tim Washington, the founder and head of Jet Charge, another Australian EV charging company, said it was sad news for the industry.

“There’s going to be a lot of comments on this, but I have to tell you, as someone who has worked with them since they were in a shed in Queensland, it’s an incredibly sad day for our industry,” Washington wrote in response to some comments to this story (see below).

“You can argue all the reasons you want, but there’s no doubt that for the hundreds of people who worked extremely hard and were passionate about EVs, this is such a sad day.”