Greenhouse gas credits float in first private pool

The world’s first privately owned mechanism set up to help corporations and governments purchase greenhouse gas emissions credits has launched, joining the field of greenhouse gas emissions trading.

At first close, Natsource, the introductory broker that owns the Greenhouse Gas Credit Aggregation Pool (GG-CAP), had €72m ($94m) committed to acquire greenhouse gas emission reductions to meet the compliance needs of participating buyers. The company said this amount was due to rise to €98.6m within a month.

The trading mechanism GG-CAP will pool initial contributions from six European, Japanese and Canadian companies, then find and invest in projects around the world to curb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions pools are growing rapidly as companies strive to comply with the Kyoto Protocol. Natsource estimated that 35 Kyoto countries will be 3.5 billion tonnes short of their 2008-2012 obligations.

EDF recovery breathes life into IPO

A 56 per cent increase in net income returned in EDF’s financial results for 2004 has helped reverse the group’s fortunes, putting it in better shape for the upcoming privatization process.

Meanwhile, an 11 per cent rise in group cash flow, to €9bn ($11.5bn), together with a reduction in financial investments and the disposal of non core assets has helped reduce the group’s net debt by 18 per cent to €19.7bn.

Group sales were up 4.5 per cent at €46.9bn, while earnings increased by ten per cent to €12.1bn. EDF said the rise was due to productivity growth, particularly in France, Germany and the UK.

All of EDF’s European subsidiaries posted a profit last year, a first for the company. In Germany, EnBW, 45 per cent owned by EDF, posted a profit of €43m, against losses of €612m in 2003.

Acciona bids for Pacific Hydro

A $546m takeover bid to gain control of Pacific Hydro, the Australian wind and hydro-electricity generator, has been launched by Spain’s Acciona.

The Spanish firm sees Pacific Hydro as a springboard to boost its generation capacity and Australian profile. The appeal of the Australian company is in its potential to generate millions of tonnes of carbon credits.

While a counter offer is unlikely, according to a statement by Pacific Hydro, some of the shareholders are still undecided whether they will accept the offer, which was just two cents above the share price.

American Electric Power, Pacific’s second largest shareholder, has confirmed it is willing to sell its 16 per cent stake but Industry Funds Management, the company’s largest shareholder at 32 per cent, said: “there is nothing before us that would influence IFM to alter its position as a long-term investor.”

Enel probed over bourse price fixing

Enel is to be investigated by the Italian anti-trust authority in response to allegations that it may have been involved in price fixing on the electricity bourse.

The authority’s decision to investigate comes after the Authority for Electric Energy and Gas referred the findings from its own inquiry into the allegations to the anti-trust body for further action.

It is feared by the anti-trust authority that Enel and its unit Enel Produzione may have abused its dominant position within the industry. The investigation is due to finish by 31 March 2006.

EDF and Enel thaw on Edison

EDF and Enel are understood to have reached an agreement that will see EDF’s voting rights in the Italian electricity company Edison released from the current freeze at two per cent.

Enel would obtain a stake in 2600 MW of installed capacity in France. It would also acquire a 35 per cent stake in SNET, formerly part of French coal group CdF, as well as being awarded a project to build two plants with a combined capacity of 800 MW.

EDF would see its position eased with regard to Edison, so it could progress negotiations with the Milan and Brescian municipal electricity enterprises AEM and ASM.

BNFL could sell Westinghouse

The British government could sell Westinghouse, the nuclear firm owned by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), according to the company’s chief executive, Steve Tritch.

Speaking at the Pittsburgh Technology Council, Tritch said: “There are people in the government considering whether Westinghouse ought to continue to be part of BNFL or whether Westinghouse ought to have a new home.”

The company is in a much stronger position now than when BNFL purchased it from the Westinghouse conglomerate in 1999. Sales are up and the company expects to hire around 250 extra staff this year.

News digest

Capitalists trust wind

The specialist venture capitalist trust Ventus, established to invest in companies that will develop and operate small on-shore UK wind projects, has raised over à‚£13m ($25m).

Cash for distribution

Reversing a trend, EDF is to spend over €3bn ($3.9bn) in the next three years to develop its distribution network. The French distribution sector operates in conjunction with the national network organization RTE.

CenterPoint exit

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted approval for CenterPoint Energy to complete the second phase of selling its power generation company, Texas Genco Holdings, to a consortium of private equity investors known as Texas Genco LLC.

Costs down profits up

The French network company RTE increased its operating profit last year by four per cent to €1.6bn ($2.1bn) on stable sales of some €4bn largely due to a reduction in its costs.

Double EWE

Germany’s fifth largest energy group, EWE, has reported that net profits in 2004 doubled to €180m ($235m) following its acquisition of the Leipzig based Verbundnetz Gas. Sales increased also, from €3.1bn to €6.1bn.

Mega merger mooted

Centrica chief executive, Sir Roy Gardener, is believed to have discussed a deal with his counterpart at Norsk Hydro that would see the two companies merge to create an international energy company. However, with an upcoming election, the Norwegian government is wary of a deal that courts controversy.

Partners energized

International Power and EnergyAustralia will establish a retail power partnership after International Power agreed to pay à‚£24.4m ($46.3m) for a 50 per cent stake. The 50:50 partnership will sell electricity and gas to retail customers in South Australia and Victoria and will serve residential and small to medium commercial and industrial customers.

Plus a minus

Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services has lowered its long term corporate credit rating on state owned French gas utility Gaz de France to ‘AA-‘ from ‘AA’. An S&P analyst said the drop reflected the long term challenges in GdF’s expansion plans.

Romanian stake

Eon has signed an agreement with the Romanian government that could see it win a 24.62 per cent stake in the soon to be privatized regional utility Electrica Moldova. Eon’s aim is to control 51 per cent of the company.

Siemens changes up

Siemens has expanded its industrial drive technology by integrating gear system supplier Flender Holding into its Automation and Drives Group at a cost of €1.2bn ($1.5bn).

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