Green power comes of age as big investors buy into fuel cell firm
Thursday February 23, 2006
The Australian-based technology company Ceramic Fuel Cells said yesterday that it was raising £37m on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) to fund a new factory, probably in the north of England.
The move came just a day before a US carbon credit specialist, Econergy International, sees its shares traded on the Aim market amid soaring values for "green" power firms. Next week the LSE hosts a "new energy" seminar expected to attract big names from the investment community, such as Merrill Lynch and Rothschild.
The CFC fundraising was executed via a share-placing with institutional investors, which will give the company a market value of a little over £60m.
More than 90 new institutional investors in Britain and elsewhere in Europe as well as specialist socially responsible funds took part in the oversubscribed placing, the company said.
CFC plans to commercialise its solid oxide fuel cell technology for use in combined home heating and power systems.
Brendan Dow, chief executive, said that his company could offer greener and more efficient boilers with integrated fuel cells run on natural gas for about £3,000. This compares with the £2,000 cost of a current condensing boiler as mandated by the British government.
No decision has been taken as to where the new factory will be located in Europe but Mr Dow said there was a "very good chance" it would be in the north of England or north Wales. Up to 200 people would be employed. If successful, there could be more facilities built, Mr Dow said. CFC shares, which are already listed on the Australian market, are expected to start trading on Aim on March 2.
The company could join a growing number of companies, such as Johnson Matthey, which are producing fuel cells in Britain for household, transport or industrial use. Mounting interest in low-carbon technology has led to a stampede of tiny companies to the LSE, such as Voller Energy, which produces fuel cells for yachts, and Ceres Power.
Impax Partners, which invests in alternative energy firms and which itself listed on Aim in 2001, has trebled its funds under management to £260m in the past year alone. Ian Simms, chief executive, said: "Mainstream investors are increasingly aware of the growth opportunities in environmental markets and of our ability to seize these opportunities on their behalf."
Impax now manages money for many institutional investors such as British Airways' pension fund and Friends Provident. A seminar on renewable companies held at the LSE last October attracted large City firms such as Merrills and Rothschild.
Big industrial groups such as GE of the United States and Germany's Siemens have expanded into this sector by taking over smaller alternative power firms.