New Australian player arrives -- Another wind fund

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With a huge 1500 MW deal in the United States now confirmed (page 32) and one of its home projects just granted development consent (page 14), Australia's Allco Wind Energy, a division of Allco Infrastructure, arrived on the global wind power stage with some flair last month. This newest independent wind power player has the powerhouse backing of its parent, Allco Finance Group, an S&P/ASX 100 global investment firm with a market capitalisation of more than $4 billion; it listed on the Australian stock exchange in July last year.

"Our current aim is to develop, construct and operate wind assets in Canada, the EU, Australia and the US with a view to constantly building up," says Allco Wind Energy's Steen Stavnsbo, formally head of wind development in Asia for Danish wind turbine maker NEG Micon before its merger with Vestas. For now, the wind industry's other boom markets of China and India are off Allco's radar.

The Allco group specialises in structured asset finance, funds management and debt funding with what it calls multiple, cross-linked areas of expertise. These include a range of industries, including aviation -- it currently has a 46% stake in the takeover bid for Qantas -- shipping, rail, infrastructure and property. Wind is a good fit, says Nick Bain, the company's global head of infrastructure.

"We did a lot of research into wind and saw that it showed potential for growth. It's an asset class that appeals to us for a number of reasons. It exhibits all the characteristics of asset that are attractive to pension fund investments." Stavnsbo agrees. "The asset does that beautifully, you have an industry in a growth phase and the demand for capital going into wind is substantial," he says.

Allco plans to be involved in all stages of its wind projects from initial permitting and development to construction and a substantial ownership interest through its lifespan. This, Stavnsbo says, fits particularly well as Allco courts and invests capital from large pension funds that seek long term annual returns.

Stavnsbo was recruited to the helm of Allco Wind Energy from small Australian wind developer Energreen at the beginning of 2006. Allco also acquired Energreen's Australian wind assets, including the just permitted 124 MW Crows Nest wind farm in south-east Queensland, and the 110 MW Motorimu Wind Farm development in New Zealand, currently awaiting approval. It says it could have acquired Energreen's China assets but chose not to.

The company's team includes Bernhard Voll in the Sydney office, previously with ABB, and in London, Christopher Mansfield, previously BP Alternative Energy's vice president and director of its wind business in Europe and Asia.

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