Sharp decline in market activity -- Germany's developers

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Germany's wind power developers are suffering from the effects of a market that has now passed its peak, aggravated by the uncertainty caused by the government's revisions to the national renewable energy law, which came into force in August. Plambeck Neue Energien has postponed reporting its first year results, saying it first needs to assess the impact of the changes to the law, while Energiekontor reports a halving of its turnover for the first half of the year, down to EUR 12.2 million from EUR 24.7 million for the same period in 2003. Losses in the first six months amounted to EUR 1 million, compared with a profit of EUR 0.71 million for the first half of 2003. Both Plambeck and Energiekontor are listed on the German stock exchange.

Energiekontor installed just two turbines in the first half of the year, but also received permits for two wind stations, began permitting procedures for eight projects and clinched leases for sites for around 50 MW, all in Germany. Further afield, it is about to begin construction of a 4 MW project at Forest Moor in the UK and is negotiating for sites for a further 150 MW in the UK and for 30 MW in Portugal, where the permitting process for a 10.4 MW project at Montenuro is in process. It is also seeking a permit for 20 MW at El Pametin in Spain. Offshore, Energiekontor won approval for 80 turbines at its Nordergründe project in the German North Sea in February and expects to get a cable route to shore authorised before the end of the year.

Marketing of its wind stations to investors has met with the same success as in the 2003 period, says Energiekontor. It stresses that no other German developer has sold shares in foreign wind stations during the first half of 2004. Shares in Forest Moor are soon to be offered to investors. Despite the slow start to 2004, Energiekontor expects a "strong revitalisation" of business in the second half of the year, but declines to provide a precise forecast.


Meanwhile, renewables project developer Umweltkontor Renewable Energy AG is seeking protection from its creditors at the local court in Mönchengladbach, to which it has applied to open "insolvency proceedings." The company says it expects to continue business on the basis of an "insolvency plan" lodged with the court.

The court application applies only to the parent company and not its subsidiaries, including the 85 individual businesses that each operate a wind power station in Germany. The combined capacity of Umweltkontor's wind power fleet is 370 MW. Each project is separately financed with its own "closed-end" wind fund and is "legally and economically independent," says Umweltkontor.

The company, based in Erkelenz, reports that "against expectations" rescue talks with banks during the past six months "could not be positively concluded." Two out of six banks were not prepared to maintain their credit lines "although other banks had in the meantime proposed to provide new funds totalling EUR 30 million." If an agreement can be reached with the banks in the next few weeks, the company plans to withdraw its court application.

Umweltkontor raised turnover in 2003 by 22% to EUR 174 million, but losses ballooned to EUR 46 million from EUR 5.2 million in 2002. The company lost EUR 7 million in connection with divestment of a failed biodiesel company, Nevest New Energy and lost another EUR 20 million in write-offs of claims connected with biodiesel production plant and utilisation of biomass. A loss of EUR 3 million was sustained in writing-off "risky" or non-realised foreign projects. Individual value adjustments and write-offs and provisioning against risks pushed the company another EUR 8 million into the red.

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