Solar 21 appoints expert as proxy for investors owed €300m
Solar 21 has appointed a forensic chartered accountant to “reset” its relationships with brokers and to act as “a proxy representative” for 3,000 Irish investors who have invested €300m in the firm.
The Rathcoole, Co Dublin renewable energy investment firm began delaying repayments to some investors in November 2021 after telling them that a major waste-to-energy plant it had proposed building in the UK was facing delays.
Solar 21 CEO Michael Bradley confirmed to an online meeting of 200 Irish financial brokers on Friday morning the appointment of John McStay of McStay Looby Chartered Accountants.
Mr McStay told the meeting that Solar 21’s corporate advisers Alvarez & Marsal had engaged with him as “a proxy representative of the investor” and they were “within a couple of weeks of being able to put a comprehensive plan in front of everybody.”
Brokers had previously been promised details of an asset disposal plan to help it repay investors in mid-March.
Mr McStay said he had seen drafts of the plan and that it was “very comprehensive but still a work in progress.”
He told the meeting he hoped the plan would lead to a period of stability that allowed Solar 21 to “focus on maximising the return rather than spending our time talking to accountants and solicitors and others”.
“My role is slightly unusual in that I've been asked by Solar, who are paying my fees – and I need to emphasise that to everybody,” Mr McStay told the meeting. “They have asked me to talk to you today but also to report as an independent professional to the investors and explain how that's going to work.”
His “personal view” was that at the end of the process, “I need to be able to say to you whether or not, in my opinion, the impact of the proposed plan is fair and equitable for your clients and whether or not it achieves the optimal outcome in the shortest period of time,” he said.
“Ultimately, though, you, and particularly your clients, will be the final judge of that,” he said, adding that the firm had committed to allowing him to express his independent, professional opinion.
Solar 21 was “well aware that this has taken longer than was necessary but, having seen the volume of work that's been done, it's quite apparent to me that this time has been required. To get things into the stage of information flow that's there at the moment.”
The accountant said that “the core problem is that the envisaged project didn't proceed” and that this had led to lot of speculation and “probably, seen through your eyes, not enough clear information and evidence as to what is happening”, he said to the brokers.
Mr McStay said that some of the funds to be returned to investors had already matured and others would mature over the coming months and this had created “urgency”.
“Solar wants to try to reset all of the relationships with you and with your clients. Logically, with almost 3,000 investors that can't be done on a one-to-one basis. So what is envisaged is some form of a collective process.”
CEO Michael Bradley declined to take questions at the meeting but apologised to brokers for the delay “in getting to this point” and acknowledged they had been “on the frontline”.
“In addition, I know this has been made much more difficult and stressful by the negative media coverage in recent weeks. And while I appreciate that investors have not received all the answers to your questions, I can absolutely assure you that Solar 21 and its team have been working very hard, along with all its advisers for over a year now to come up with an orderly sales plan for the assets to produce the best return possible for your investors and we are determined to see that through,” said Mr Bradley.