First Wind cuts forecast on proceeds from IPO

Investors wary of Boston company’s red ink, big debts

By Steven Syre
Globe Staff / October 28, 2010

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Call it the wind chill factor.

Facing a decidedly cool reception from investors, First Wind Holdings Inc., a Boston developer of big wind farms, yesterday elected to sharply reduce the amount of money it expects to raise from its initial public offering, scheduled for today.

First Wind earlier predicted it would get $24 to $26 a share. Now it expects to sell 12 million shares in the range of $18 to $20 each.

A share price in the middle of that range would reduce First Wind’s IPO proceeds by $72 million to $228 million.

First Wind’s newly public shares were expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq market today. But last night the company and its investment bankers had not yet announced a set price for the shares.

First Wind operates seven utility-scale wind farms in Maine, New York, Utah, and Hawaii with a combined capacity to generate 504 megawatts of power. The company hopes to operate or begin construction on farms with another 1,000 megawatts of capacity by the end of next year.

First Wind originally filed documents to go public in 2008, in the midst of the presidential campaign and an enthusiastic national debate about alternative energy development. At the time, the company hoped to raise as much as $425 million.

But First Wind has also produced a lot of red ink. The company, created eight years ago, has lost $233 million and continues to lose money today. It has also piled up $582 million in debt building wind farms and will require more financing to expand in the future.

Those financial facts led to a tepid response from investors, analysts said.

“Given the financial tight rope First Wind is walking and its voracious need for financing to build its projects, we believe the risks outweigh the company’s upside,’’ Stephen Simko, Morningstar Inc. analyst, wrote in a report on the stock offering.

First Wind generated about $88 million in revenue through the first nine months of the year, about 50 percent more than it reported for the same period of 2009. But the company also posted an operating loss of $43 million for the first three quarters, about the same amount it lost over that period last year.

First Wind said it will use the proceeds from its stock sale to reduce debt and help finance ongoing development projects.

The company’s big financial backers, hedge fund operator D.E. Shaw and the private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners, will continue to own a majority interest in First Wind.

Steven Syre is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at