Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Tanfield Tale - Smiths, SEV-US, Optare and Roy Stanley

Once upon a time there was an electric vehicle manufacturer called Smiths. It made niche electric vehicles in the UK for 75years then was bought by Tanfield, led by the electric vehicle enthusiast Roy Stanley. Smiths grew to become Europes largest electric vehicle supplier, with customers ranging from Sainsburys to DHL. The real prize for Tanfield and Smiths would be the US Market though. So, with Obamas presidency and the turn away from oil after appetite for war in Iraq dropped off, the timing was right for the creation of Smiths USA (SEV-US) and the claiming of grants in Kansas to create new employment opportunities in an emerging industry. The desire to invest in EVs in the states is strong if recent price rises following flotations of green stocks on the NYSE is a taken into account. The clamour for shares in future technology companies drives prices to 3 or 4 times initial offer prices in many cases.

Back to Tanfield, they hold a 49% stake in the SEV-US operation and recently Roy Stanley has devoted time in the states to raise the profile of SEV. The result has been to generate enough interest to make an offer to Tanfield for the remaining stake it holds in SEV. The offer Of over 33 million equates to 45p per TAN share, with an additional payment of a similar amount due when SEV-US floats on the US exchange before 2015. In total the offer is worth around 90p per Tanfield share to holders.

This is seen as the first piece in the jigsaw to create a global player in the emerging EV Market. For the next steps, we need to look back over the past year at the history of events surrounding Roy and Optare. Roy announced his intention not to stand for re-election at the AGM in July 2009to the Optare board last year, citing his wish to avoid future conflicts of interest. Since then Optare has been the greatest beneficiary of Green Bus grant money with expected orders worth 12million to Optare to be placed during 2010. The first of these orders for three electric buses was received in January from Durham CC. Since then, Optare has announced that it has received a preliminary offerfor majority share of the company. As Roy is the majority shareholder, the suspicion is that the offer is related to recent events at Tanfield. Roy Stanley or tied to SEVs deal with Tanfield are growing stronger. If SEV US wanted to extend the range of vehicles on offer, then Optares electric Solo would seem a natural partner. Optare would also benefit in having access to the large US Market for a low floor bus that could be used on school routes and airport duty cycles.
So it is curious that the share price of Optare has taken a recent dip. If history repeats itself, then this is the time to expect further news on a potental offer from SEV US. Just as Tanfield dropped to 22p, the news that SEV US was interested in taking over came through.
Let's see what happens next, as we witness the creation of the worlds largest EV maker led by Roy Stanley following his dream.


  1. Thanks for this info - the RS/Tan/Optare story is a tangled one and the Optare share price is a real puzzle at the moment. The comment on 'bid for majority' was also odd but is explained if the bid is for RS' shares. Noted also that, back in January, RS sold a small proportion of his shares for what appeared a loss. It's hard to make it all add up.

    I think Optare is due to publish results soon and maybe we'll get more information then.

    Please keep blogging on this as you have made the most sensible observations on the situation I've seen!

  2. Stig:
    Most clues are stateside and grant related.
    See the 20million US CARB grant available to hybrid electric truck and BUS manufacturers. That's why SEV-US are looking at a plant in California.