General Atlantic, others bet $260 mn on Sun King; Apis part-exits

 General Atlantic, others bet $260 mn on Sun King; Apis part-exits

Sun King, the largest provider of solar energy products for off-grid homes in Africa and Asia, said Wednesday it has raised $260 million in Series D funding led by BeyondNetZero, the climate investing venture of General Atlantic.

M&G Investments’ Catalyst team and Arch Emerging Markets Partners also joined the round.

Founded in 2007 as Greenlight Planet, the company recently rebranded as Sun King, the name under which its products have long been sold.

The announcement comes more than three months after The Capital Quest first reported that General Atlantic was seeking a large stake in Greenlight.

The $260 million financing includes $100 million in primary investment. Sun King’s founders retain voting control of the board.

Sun King said it will use the funds for geographical expansion. It will also use the funds to expand its product line, including larger solar systems equipped with AC-electricity inverters (capable of powering larger appliances like refrigerators) and new products such as mobile phones.

The company says it has powered the lives of 82 million people across 40 countries to date. The company’s solar home systems power lights, mobile phones, radios and larger home appliances. It claims its systems are more affordable and sustainable than kerosene or new power lines, allowing customers to leapfrog electrical grids and fossil-fuel energy sources entirely.

The company says it is adding 150,000 new clients per month across seven countries. In Kenya, one in five people use Sun King products, with 18 million Kenyans having benefited over a decade of operations. In Nigeria, the company’s user base has tripled in the past year alone. While growing rapidly, the company has remained consistently profitable.

Sun King now accounts for 38% of total industry-wide pay as you go (PAYG) solar revenue, according to the data from GOGLA, the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry.

“This investment in Sun King marks an incredible inflection point for the global off-grid solar industry,” said T Patrick Walsh, co-founder and CEO of Sun King.

Sun King co-founder Anish Thakkar added, “It’s now dramatically more affordable to power a home with a solar system than to extend the electrical grid: for less than the cost of a single electrical pole, we can install an entire solar energy system in-home. This funding will further unlock our ability to scale this revolution to the 1.8 billion people who need these products today, and the next billion who will need them tomorrow.”

Greenlight Planet was founded by Walsh, a University of Illinois student who spent part of 2005 working with the Engineers Without Borders in India. He designed along with classmates from school and sold Greenlight’s first solar lantern prototypes in 2006 in the state of Odisha as an alternative to kerosene.

In 2007, co-founders Mayank Sekhsaria and Anish Thakkar joined him. The company was incorporated in the current form two years later.

It has presence in India, Hong Kong, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, China, Myanmar, Nigeria and Zambia. The company says its products have reached over 60 million rural consumers in more than 65 countries.

General Atlantic had formed BeyondNetZero, a new venture targeting growth equity investments related to climate change, last June. BeyondNetZero has among its advisors Mastercard veteran Ajay Banga, former EBRD president Suma Chakrabarti, General Atlantic chairman emeritus Steven A. Denning, Syngenta CEO J. Erik Fyrwald and former OPIC chief Elizabeth Littlefield.

Ekta Partners acted as lead financial advisor for this transaction. Goodwin Procter LLP provided legal counsel to Sun King, and Freshfields provided legal counsel to BeyondNetZero.

Apis signs off

Apis Growth Fund I, a private equity fund managed by Apis Partners, has made a partial exit as part of the $160 million secondary transaction. It has sold a bulk of its stake in Sun King.

Apis had invested in the company five years ago when it raised $60 million. Eight Roads Ventures, Bamboo Capital Partners, PG Impact Investments, responsAbility, SIMA Funds, Deutsche Bank and SunFunder had also joined the round.

Since Apis’ investment in 2017, the company has grown over five-fold, with annualised revenue now exceeding $200 million.

Udayan Goyal, co-founder and Managing Partner at Apis Partners: “When we invested in the company in 2017, it sold 27,000 PAYG units that year; this has increased to 1.2 million units sold in 2021. This is just one example of the company’s growth since our investment.”

Greenlight had raised equity and debt capital from several investors in the past. In 2020, for instance, it raised $90 million from CDC Group Plc, FMO, Norfund, responsAbility, SIMA Funds, Symbiotics, Global Partnerships and private equity firm ARCH Emerging Markets Partners’ Africa Renewable Power Fund.

Vivek Sinha

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