Senvion to focus on new products and markets, says CFO

GERMANY: New CFO, Manav Sharma, says manufacturer will invest in greater product development, as he aims to bring stability to the German firm now under US ownership.

New Senvion CFO Manav Sharma
New Senvion CFO Manav Sharma

"The first thing we expect our new partners to support actively in investment in product development," said Sharma, the new CFO of Senvion. "If you look at when we brought out the MM (2MW platform) the world was talking about sub 2MW machines. Then we brought out the 3XM (3MW) and the world was talking about 2MW. And then the world was talking about how should we go offshore, we talked about a 5MW machine.

"So if you look at that, I think you do continuous investment in developing new technologies and products. We expect our new shareholders will support us actively in investment in product development, in our customer service and in new growth markets," he said of the company's new owners Centerbridge Partners.


It has been a satisfying financial year with stable to solild growth trajectory,  Sharma added. "We expect to continue down this path this year as well."

Since being taken over by the US private equity firm Centerbridge, Senvion has posted its first annual report.  Pre-tax earnings totalled €155 million for the period 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, compared to €146 million a year earlier – a 6.2% increase.

In his new role, Sharma, who was formally Senvion's executive vice president for finance, wants to bring stability to the company following a tumultuous year - he is the company's third CFO in less than 12 months.

In September, Michael Wassenberg stepped down from the role, while rumours spread in the market that parent company Suzlon was planning to list Senvion on the stock exchange to help clear the former's debt; followed by the sale to US private equity firm Centerbridge Partners in January.

The CFO who replaced Wassenberg, Kirti Vagadia, had been group head of finance at Suzlon. In February, he returned to Suzlon following the takeover by Centerbridge. Sharma also came from Suzlon, transferring in 2011 to Senvion.

The company has a "bouquet" of new markets, and is also in discussion with customers in new countries, he added: "We are looking at some of the high growth, emerging-economies-based markets and some large stable economies as well for our future growth."

The company's core markets – UK, Germany, Canada and France – are showing signs of slowing.The poor market conditions for wind energy in Australia, where Senvion has been present for some years, has shown a slight sign of improvement. Parliament there recently agreed a cut to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) subsidy programme rather than fullscale removal, ending 18-months of stalemate. The uncertainty over the RET had brought the country's wind industry to a standstill.


"The breaking of the deadlock in Australia is actually a step in the right direction. The market was in a limbo. Today we know there is a firm market that wants over 33TWh by 2020 and that opens 4.8-5GW of opportunities," Sharma said.

Senvion has 440MW of wind turbines operating in the country, across nine projects. Sharma believes the company is now in a good position to benefit, if the market is there.

Markets can go up and down, but as long as policy is consistent, wind can prosper in such situations, Sharma added. "At the end of the day, we get what we get. For us as a responsible business it is important that we plan," he said.

Consistency, however, was not something afforded to the industry by the new UK government. Last month, the new energy minister Amber Rudd announced the Renewables Obligation (RO) subsidy scheme for onshore wind projects will finish a year earlier than scheduled.

While it was no secret that Rudd's Conservative Party wanted to curb the spread of onshore wind farms, its election manifesto was to end any new public subsidy for onshore wind, not remove existing subsidies. "[It] took the industry by surprise," Sharma said. "I can tell you one thing - surprising legislative changes are not taken kindly by the market.

"I hope the government will see that and I do expect that good sense will prevail for what is right for the economy and the business," he said, adding he expected to see a short term increase in activity in the UK as developers rush to complete projects during the RO grace period.

Service reshuffle

Sharma is not the only Senvion member of staff in a new role. As part of a minor reshuffle within the company, the products and services divisions will be split across two units to achieve a greater focus on each.

Russell Stoddard moves from chief technical officer to become chief reliability officer, leading the servicing unit, and Bernhard Telgmann, vice president of product management, will now manage the product and technology division.

"We want to lift the strategic importance of our service business with a deeper focus on creating more value for our customers and ourselves. It is better for stability and growth plans. It is a good margin business and growing that is very beneficial. 

"At the same time, we can now run technology away from the distractions of a fully operating business like servicing, and concentrate on some very crucial product interventions with a renewed and complete focus," Sharma said of the reshuffle, adding it allowed "more shoulders to carry the responsibilities."

Earlier this month, the company announced plans to open an R&D centre in India in September, and Sharma expects to focus further investment on product development and new technologies. "We are a capital intensive business, therefore the allocation of the capital is very important," he said.

Elsewhere in the company, chief operating officer Lars Rytter will also leave "in accordance with his contract", announced alongside the company reshuffle. Company CEO Andreas Nauen will oversee his role until a successor is found.

Additionally, Senvion will now operate as a GmbH company instead of SE. Sharma said the change was a legal technicality required in Germany following the takeover from Centerbridge, a private company.

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