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Netherlands

PROTECTION SOUGHT IN LIQUIDATION AFTER BLADE FAILURES IN GREECE

Belgian wind turbine manufacturer HMZ WindMaster of Saint Truiden has gone into liquidation. The company suspended payments and stopped all activities on September 22. Accounts prior to that date will be settled, assures the company. HMZ WindMaster's activities, technology and key personnel will be taken over by its Dutch sister company, WindMaster Nederland BV. HMZ is Dutch owned.

The so-called amicable liquidation of WindMaster Belgium was decided upon by the shareholder, the huge Koninklijke Begemann Group of the Netherlands. A major reason for the liquidation is a fear of claims which could be made against WindMaster by the Public Power Corporation of Greece, according to Hans Kursten from WindMaster Nederland BV.

In 1994 a number of longitudinal cracks were found on the blades of several of the 34 WindMaster 300 kW turbines in Greece (Windpower Monthly, November 1994). All machines were stopped and a fix was devised by the blade manufacturer, Aerpac, and WindMaster, under the scrutiny of Germanischer Lloyd. Negotiations have continued since about who is to pay for the repairs. HMZ has said that lightning was a suspected cause of at least some of the blade problem.

"Although WindMaster Belgium proposed a variety of ways to settle," Kursten says, "they could not reach agreement. The risk that the Greek electricity company would not pay grew bigger and bigger." Faced with the possibility of losing considerable sums, WindMaster Belgium's main shareholder, Begemann, opted out. Existing creditors will be paid, says Kursten, and existing customers (presumably not including the Greek utility) can turn to WindMaster Nederland for after sales services.

Kursten denies any suggestion that the Begemann group is looking to totally opt out of wind energy. He admits, though, that there are some changes on the way. The most important one is that the Koninklijke Begemann Group is looking for other shareholders in WindMaster Nederland BV. "That is not unique for WindMaster. The general policy of the company is to participate more in projects rather than continue as an entrepreneurial enterprise," explains Kursten Discussions are ongoing with a possible minority share partner. Kursten is not prepared to divulge the name of this entity, but it is known that WindMaster has close ties with at least one French industrial company.

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