New investor 'will hold key to Bard's future'

GERMANY: Bard group, the vertically integrated German offshore wind company, has reached a pivotal stage in its development following the appointment of US investment bank JP Morgan to find a new investor. Bard declined to comment on speculation about potential buyers, although industrial companies from the US and Asia are reportedly interested.

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Bard is unique for being both an offshore manufacturer and a developer, but it has been undergoing a radical transformation since owner Arngolt Bekker placed his 87% share with trust company Bard Asset Management in December. Management of the trust was placed in the hands of lawyer Thorsten Bieg, whose mandate was to define the future business concept of the Bard group. He replaced Bard's senior management with a new team and restructured the company.

The new owner structure is to be decided by March 2012. "What the structure will be depends on what the investor wants," a Bard spokesman said. This leaves open the option that the company may be broken up into the three segments that reflect its activities: project development; offshore turbine design and manufacturing including foundations and blades; and offshore station operation.

Bard's unique selling point is wide-ranging practical experience in offshore development, including turbine and foundation construction as well as supply. Bard not only owns but has installed and is operating the 80-turbine, 400MW Bard Offshore 1 station being built some 100 kilometres out to sea in a water depth of 40 metres. Sixteen out of the planned 80 turbines were already generating power in mid-September 2011. However, completion of commissioning is substantially delayed and now slated for 2013 instead of end-2012.

A new investor in Bard could impact on future ownership of the flagship North Sea project. Prospective buyers include German municipal utility conglomerate Sudweststrom, which wants to buy 45%of the project, pension fund Versorgunsanstalt des Bundes und der Lander (24.99%), municipal utility groups WV Energie (7.5%) and Offshore Wind for Hesse (16.25%), and Zurich energy company EWZ 6.25%.

"Talks have been on ice for several months," said a Sudweststrom spokesman. WV Energie, which says on its website that it has marketing rights to the wind farm, declined to comment. Any project delays are likely to seriously impact on Bard finances.

Promising pipeline

As a project developer, Bard currently has six German offshore wind projects, after selling off a 600MW project in the Dutch North Sea to green-investment company Typhoon Offshore and Dutch energy company HVC at the end of August. Bard is currently negotiating over turbine supply.

The 400MW Aquamarin, Bernstein and Diamant projects are at the planning stage, and the 273MW Deutsche Bucht and 400MW Veja Mate projects have been permitted. Bard is general contractor and supplying turbines and foundations for the 400MW Bard Offshore 1 project.

Assuming Bard supplies turbines to all the German projects, it has potential sales of around 455 5MW turbines, and a further 120 if it clinches the supply contract for the Dutch project as it stands.

Bard is also developing a 6.5MW offshore turbine. Two prototypes were installed at Rysumer Nacken near Emden earlier this year. Serial production for the larger turbine type is due to start in 2013.

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