Gamesa expands with EUR50m non-wind fund

SPAIN: Gamesa's decision to create a EUR50 million fund to buy non-wind emerging renewable technologies has prompted queries about whether the company is preparing alternatives against a possible takeover bid of its turbine business, or simply diversifying its risk base.

But Gamesa CEO Jorge Calvet insists there is no mystery. He says: "We need to think about what the new renewable technologies will be - we can't afford to be left behind."

The company's official line is: "We are first and foremost a technological company." This ties in with last year's announcement that it would invest in global wind research and development. This included a new focus on offshore wind, where it is developing 6MW and 7MW machines.

"Wind's constant development has absorbed most of our efforts. But that does not mean we will always be exclusive to wind," says a spokesperson. Just over a decade ago Gamesa's core business was automation and aeronautical supplies.

The equity market responded favourably to the fund's creation, with Gamesa shares rising 1.54% at the close of business on May 20. On the heels of the announcement, Goldman Sachs bought more than half a million shares, making it Gamesa's third-largest shareholder, with just over 3%, behind Iberdrola, with 19.5%, and Blackrock with 3.38%.

Through the fund, Gamesa Venture Capital (GVC), the company says it will invest up to EUR10 million annually over the next five years on acquiring and growing "minority holdings in companies developing the future's most promising technologies". The main technological targets are wave and next-generation photovoltaic (PV) power, energy storage, electric vehicles, energy efficiency and off-grid systems.

After the fifth year, and up to the tenth year of each company stake, Gamesa says it will decide whether to buy the entire company. The rest will be sold off at a profit, after benefiting from Gamesa's global clout in product development, industrialisation, supply chains and commercialisation.

GVC has already made its first moves, acquiring 28.7% of SkyBuilt Power and 25% of WorldWater & Solar Technologies, both US specialists in off-grid solutions. Several commentators close to Gamesa believe the deals are meaningful. For a start, they are in the US, where all wind companies' turbine business faces market ups and downs due to the lack of long-term regulation.

Hybrid renewables systems

For some, the deals in hand also suggest a focus on developing wind-solar standalone systems. Indeed, Steve Sawyer of the Global Wind Energy Council believes that "one of the big world opportunities is for somebody to come up with a scalable, modular wind-solar-biomass-diesel hybrid system for remote villages, which could have a huge impact in Asia and Africa. Whoever does that is going to make a lot of money."

Gamesa dismisses such conjecture. A spokesman said: "We are going to pick up the new technologies wherever they are and in whatever segment. We're scouring technologists worldwide. It's early days yet."

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