Thursday, September 23, 2010

Will UTC ride to the rescue of stalling Clipper Windpower?

Clipper Windpower, the US company behind plans to install the world's largest wind turbine off the British coast, has today confirmed it is in crisis talks with its largest shareholder United Technologies Corporation (UTC) as part of an urgent attempt to raise fresh capital.

Clipper, which is listed on London's AIM stock exchange, saw its share price fall 30 per cent this morning after it released a trading update confirming that the company "expects to face significant liquidity strain within the next year" .

It also confirmed that it expects to report later this month that revenue for the first half of the year slumped from $357.3m during the first half of 2009 to between $150m and $154m during the first six months of this year.

The poor sales performance will be only partially offset by news that net losses for the first half of the year are expected to have narrowed from $120m to between $26m and $30m.

The company said that its cash position has shrunk rapidly from $140m at the end of June to $86m by the end of August and, as a result, it is now actively exploring "numerous alternatives" for raising capital, including private and public equity issuances and working capital credit lines with a number of financial institutions, as well as talks with UTC.

UTC shelled out £126m last December to acquire a 49.5 per cent stake in Clipper, and the wind turbine manufacturer said that it is now in talks that could see the engineering and aerospace conglomerate fully acquire the firm.

"Discussions with UTC are ranging from providing credit support for a working capital line to equity purchases," Clipper said in a statement. "During these discussions, UTC submitted to Clipper a non-binding indication of interest to acquire all of the ordinary shares of the Group not currently owned by UTC. The indication of interest was conditional on completion of confirmatory due diligence and additional terms and conditions."

Clipper said that it was unlikely to finalise a financing deal ahead of the scheduled release of its first-half results on 30 September, warning that as a result it expected to confirm within the results that it faces a "material uncertainty that casts significant doubt on the Group's and the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern".

However, it added that the ongoing discussions with UTC and other institutional capital providers meant that the non-UTC directors on the board have a "reasonable expectation" that the company has "adequate resources and operating flexibilities to continue the business for the foreseeable future".

Clipper Windpower has specialised in the development of large-scale wind turbines, such as its 2.5MW Liberty turbine and its proposed 10MW Britannia Project turbine, the blades for which are expected to be built at a new facility in north-east England. As a result, the company has faced high development costs and, like other wind turbine manufacturers, has also seen orders fall short of expectations this year as a result of the global economic downturn.

However, Clipper maintains that it is well positioned for long-term growth, while UTC has signaled in the past that it is keen to bolster its position in the fast-expanding renewable energy market.

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