A backer for full commercialisation -- Areva buys Multibrid

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French nuclear giant Areva is showing itself determined to get into the offshore wind power business as a turbine manufacturer. Having lost out to Indian wind company Suzlon for ownership of Germany's Repower earlier this year, it has bought another German turbine maker, Multibrid Entwicklungsgesellschaft, based in Bremerhaven. "Multibrid adds to the group's stake in Repower and to its partnership with Suzlon," says Areva.

The deal leaves former Multibrid owner, wind project developer Prokon Nord Energiesysteme, with 49% of the company. It values Multibrid, which is developing a 5 MW turbine, at EUR 150 million. Designed for offshore use, the turbine has a number of unique features (box).

The joint venture arrangement "allows our client [Prokon] to remain in the business with a significant stake and to continue the rapid expansion of the business they acquired three years ago," says Mortimer Menzel of Augusta & Company, which acted as financial advisor to Prokon Nord for the deal. "Securing the financial clout and industrial expertise of Areva will catapult the 5 MW turbine to a global product for the offshore wind market," according to Menzel.

Augusta and Prokon Nord examined various options for Multibrid including involvement of a financial investor or a stock exchange listing, but picked Areva because of its understanding of, and commitment to, the offshore business, says Menzel. "The returns on offshore are huge, double what we see in the onshore space and I can't believe the risk is twice as high," says Menzel.

Multibrid already has two 5 MW prototypes testing onshore near Bremerhaven, with two more due be installed at the same site at the end of 2007. Under a contract with Deutsche Offshore Testfeld und Infrastruktur (DOTI), a further six units are to go up at a planned German offshore test field, Alpha Ventus (Windpower Monthly, November 2006). The test field, which will also feature six Repower units, is being built 45 kilometres north of the island of Borkum. The units are due for full commissioning by summer 2009. DOTI is owned by European energy majors E.ON and Vattenfall as well as large regional energy company EWE.

Offshore France

Prokon Nord and Multibrid have 905 MW of potential offshore projects on the books. These include the Côte d'Albâtre project being developed off France by Prokon subsidiary Enertrag France. It will comprise 21 turbines, the first of which is due for delivery at the end of 2008 (Windpower Monthly, October 2005). In addition, Prokon and Multibrid each have applications pending with Germany's federal shipping agency to develop adjacent offshore pilot projects. One is at the Borkum West 2 site, 45 kilometres north-west of Borkum, and the other at MEG Offshore 1. If permitted, construction of the two 80-turbine projects is to begin in 2009, says Multibrid.

The Areva purchase could also benefit German firm Pfleiderer, which sold Multibrid to Prokon Nord back in December 2003. At that time, neither company would reveal how much the deal was worth, but Pfleiderer's Ulrich Körner said the original purchase payment of Multibrid by Prokon Nord was partly dependent on Prokon Nord's success in marketing the offshore turbine in the medium term. Pfleiderer will possibly get a percentage of each turbine sale or a percentage of profits for a certain period.

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