Monday 20 November 2017

Renewable energy whets the appetite of investors

Emmet Oliver

Apart from social media, there is no other investment money managers like more than renewable energy at present.

While much of the technology remains unproven commercially, governments are putting huge resources behind alternative energy projects and companies in the sector are set to reap the dividends.

NTR plc, which started life charging cars to cross the east and west-link toll bridges, has €1.26bn of assets, with 60pc of these in the renewable area.

Like all investment in renewables, some NTR punts have done well, others are still at an embryonic stage, while others have not performed as the company would have liked.

As a result, the past few years have been very challenging for NTR and yesterday it failed to declare a dividend and said it was scaling back some of its spending on solar power.

While the dividend news was negative for shareholders, chief executive Jim Barry did manage to put a far more intriguing development before them -- an alliance with the world's largest investment fund, BlackRock.


While the technical details of how this alliance will work were not released, there is little doubt that attracting the interest from a fund like BlackRock is a coup for Mr Barry.

With $3.5 trillion (€2.5 trillion) of assets under management, BlackRock is a financial behemoth with investments spanning the entire globe. Its founder Larry Fink is one of a small band of market players who can radically move markets.

NTR will now provide its expertise in renewable energy to BlackRock and together they will operate a joint renewable energy investment group.

How this joint company will be capitalised is not clear, but Mr Barry is moving into a new job as chief investment adviser for the company and he will soon be joined by at least 10 of his NTR colleagues.

To be fair to Mr Barry, BlackRock is not doing the deal simply because NTR has a blemish-free record in the renewables area.

In fact, yesterday, Mr Barry admitted that in many respects BlackRock was combining with NTR because the company has made some bad investments in the past and now the two firms could avoid similar mistakes in the future.

For NTR shareholders the deal may be something of a mystery but, as Mr Barry said yesterday, for now those shareholders will simply have to trust the NTR board and hope BlackRock's magic can rub off on the Irish renewables company.

Irish Independent

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