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Chinese Green Sector Surges as Europe Suffers in Q2

Mixed fortunes have dogged the clean-tech and clean energy sectors in the second quarter of 2010, according to latest figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and VB/Research.

Global investment in clean energy slipped in the second quarter to $33.9 billion, according to researchers at BNEF. This is down 1.5% on the first quarter, and 3% down year-on-year, but BNEF described the figures as steady considering the macro-economic situation.

Investment levels were bolstered by the massive build-out of renewable energy capacity in China – the country saw asset financing levels reach $11.5 billion in the second quarter, up 9.6% on the previous three months and 72.1% up on the same period last year.

Meanwhile, BNEF found that asset financings in Europe dropped to $4.5 billion, well below the $14.9 billion invested in the second quarter of 2009.

“On a global level, the new numbers suggest that despite continuing worries about the macro?economy, investors remain relatively optimistic about clean energy’s longer term prospects,” said BNEF chief executive Michael Liebreich. “However, where investors are placing their bets is changing rapidly. China continues its extraordinary surge and Europe has suffered a setback according to our figures for asset finance in the second quarter."

Renewable energy project finance rose to $29.6 billion according to VB/Research’s second-quarter figures – broadly in line with BNEF’s figure of $28.9 billion of asset financing. A strong increase on the $20.4 billion of deals completed in the first three months of the year, VB/Research also put this down largely to growth in China, although the largest project it cited was a 1,870MW hydropower project on the Gibe-Omo river basin in Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, VB/Research found venture capital and private equity firms invested more than $5 billion in clean-tech and renewables in the second quarter – this is down 4% on the first three months of 2010, but up 45% on the same period last year. “The market lacks pre-credit crunch exuberance but has recovered significantly from the moribund levels of 2009,” said VB/Research CEO Douglas Lloyd.

Venture capitalists shifted the forms of their activity as well, with investments in early-stage start-ups down 31% on the first quarter, but investment in later-stage companies up 63%. European VC activity also surged 40% this quarter, largely driven by investments of more than $100 million in French solar photovoltaics firm Fonroche and Norwegian electric car company Think Global.

Corporate merger and acquisition activity remained “robust”, according to VB/Research – 152 transactions took place, representing $14.5 billion, “marginally surpassing the prior quarter”. However, only two deals closed worth more than $1 billion, one of which was BASF’s $3.8 billion acquisition of speciality chemicals firm Cognis.

Lloyd said: “Looking forward, we expect M&A transaction activity to remain strong. Overcapacity and fragmentation, particularly in China, among wind component and solar module manufacturers is expected to drive consolidation. In parallel, with public markets remaining fragile, M&A remains the only viable exit option for financial investors.”

Clean energy and clean-tech share prices have suffered, VB/Research and BNEF agree – with some sector-specific indexes showing companies in the green space experiencing more substantial losses than the wider market. The First Trust ISE Global Wind Energy index, for example, lost 26.4%, while the Ardour Solar Energy Index dropped 25.7%.

This caused a number of high-profile cancellations of initial public offerings, VB/Research said, noting that Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology pulled its planned $1.2 billion listing in June, the fifth IPO to be postponed on the Hong Kong stock market last month. However, 12 of the 16 firms in this space to list in the second quarter were Chinese.

IPOs in the renewables and clean-tech space raised $1.1 billion in the last three months, according to VB/Research. This is down 28% in value-terms on the first quarter, which saw 18 listings. BNEF, which is tracking such investments using slightly different criteria, put the figure for money raised on the public markets at $2.6 billion, but still described the number as “anaemic” compared to the $5.9 billion raised in the last quarter of 2009.

Solar overcapacity in Spain and Germany, combined with regulatory uncertainty, is pushing down the price investors are willing to pay for installed capacity. Solar plants are being acquired for an average of $2.5 million per megawatt (MW), compared to the average of $3.1 million in 2009, according to VB/Research. The cost of buying a wind farm has stayed roughly the same as 2009, and they are being acquired at an average of $1.8 million per MW.

By. Jess McCabe

Source: Environmental-Finance

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