Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Guy Hands in Talks for Wind-Farm Deal

Private-equity investor Guy Hands is in advanced talks to invest up to $350 million for a controlling stake in EverPower Wind Holdings Inc., a New York-based developer of wind farms, according to a person familiar with the situation.
EverPower, which is developing wind farms in Oregon, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania, will use the money in part to expand and also refinance a loan. The company has one completed project in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Mr. Hands already owns Infinis, a U.K. renewable energy company that has made a push into wind power.
The American Wind Energy Association estimates the U.S. will add 5,000 megawatts of new capacity this year, down from 8,500 last year. The U.S. last year surpassed Germany as the leading producer of wind-power, with 25,300 megawatts -- enough to power seven million homes.

Because of the large amounts of capital required to build wind-turbine projects, large public utilities largely dominate the business. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Corp., through its MidAmerica Energy Holdings Co., is one of the largest wind-power players.
Private-equity investment in the sector has been limited. First Wind Holdings of Newton, Mass., and Noble Environmental Power LLC, both backed by private-equity firms, filed initial public offerings last year that stalled amid the financial crisis.
Some alternative-energy projects have been scaled back in recent months as developers have struggled to secure financing. Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens delayed his much publicized wind farm in Texas until at least 2010.
But investors are taking a renewed interest in the sector as the Obama administration's stimulus package includes wind- energy incentives. The price of wind turbines has also fallen as demand has dropped.
An investment by Mr. Hands in EverPower, through his Terra Firma Capital Partners private-equity firm, would cash out minority owner Good Energies, an investment fund owned by Dutch retailing family Brenninkmeijer. The company is 55%-owned by existing managers who are expected to remain.
Mr. Hands runs Terra Firma, which was spun out from Nomura Holdings in 2002. The London-based buyout firm has struggled with its investment in record company EMI Group Ltd. Since that 2007 acquisition, Mr. Hands has done only one other deal, purchasing cattle ranches from Australia's Packer family.
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