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Mainstream to sell stake before €1bn Asian float

EDDIE O'Connor, the green energy pioneer, is looking to sell a stake in his €400m- valued Mainstream Renewables company ahead of a planned flotation on Asian markets in two years.

O'Connor told the Sunday Independent that he was considering selling part of the fast growing wind energy company to a "cornerstone investor". He added that he would sell between "five to ten percent" of the business. Potential buyers include major sovereign wealth funds, wind turbine manufacturers or institutional investors.

"That's one of our tasks in the next couple of years, to get other investors into us," according to O'Connor. " We'll be floating in two or two and a half years time but only if the markets are right." The euro crisis will need to be solved first before equity markets improve, he added.

O'Connor set up Mainstream just three years ago after selling his Airtricity wind energy firm to SSE for more than €1bn. Earlier, Airtricity's US assets had been offloaded for close to €1.2bn.

The company will be bulked up to a valuation approaching €1bn before floating. Mainstream took a major step towards that price tag last week when it inked a transformational deal in South Africa, which saw it become a major energy player in the country after landing €460m worth of state contracts. For the first time ever, Mainstream -- until now best known for wind energy projects -- will move into the solar power sector. "This is the stuff of legend," according to O'Connor. The deal will see Mainstream provide enough energy to power a city the size of Cork.

Crucially, Mainstream has agreed to flip most of the project to Globaleq once it is completed. O'Connor's firm will retain a small interest.

Separately, Mainstream has also agreed a landmark financing deal with China Development Bank to fund the roll out of a major windfarm in Chile. It is the first time a Chinese bank has funded a major western-led renewable energy deal. "This should induce fear among the other wind turbine suppliers now the CDB is involved," he suggested.

O'Connor's firm is set to start building seven major wind and renewable energy projects next year, ranging from Chile to the west of Ireland, costing close to €800m.

Sunday Indo Business