Wind farmer REG grows by remaining small

UNITED KINGDOM - Wind farms arouse mixed emotions. For environmentalists and politicians, they are unquestionably beneficial. They use what is freely available — wind — to generate something that everybody needs — electricity. But for many ordinary people, wind turbines are a blot on the landscape to be avoided at all costs.

The widespread antipathy towards wind farms, particularly large ones, has been a major setback for the industry in this country. Planning permission is costly and time-consuming to obtain and is frequently refused. Over the past year or so, developers have also been hit by falling wholesale electricity prices, which makes the energy they produce or hope to produce less valuable.

Meanwhile, a scarcity of credit has mad it difficult for them to fund their businesses.

In this context, Renewable Energy Generation (REG) stands out from the pack. The company focuses on small developments of just a few turbines. These are easier to finance and tend to receive planning permission at a slightly speedier rate.

The company is already operating several small wind farms that generate 21 megawatts of electricity in total - enough to power about 10,000 homes - and it has received approval for developments that will give it a further 15 megawatts of capacity.

There is also a string of projects in the pipeline that could, if approved, add a further 300 megawatts of capacity to Renewable Energy's portfolio.

Separately, the company operates a business that turns used cooking oil into electricity. The division expects that by the end of 2010 it will have the ability to generate 13 megawatts of electricity this way.

More immediately, Renewable chief executive Andrew Whalley has just agreed to sell the company's Canadian subsidiary to International Power Canada for £69 million. The deal needs the approval of shareholders, but they are highly likely to agree to it because the transaction will enable Renewable to pay off all its debts and leave about £50 million in the bank.

Whalley intends to use the money to develop the wind farms and the cooking oil division, focusing the company entirely on the UK, rather than splitting his time between here and Canada.

Today, REG shares are trading at 60p, making the company worth £60 million on the stock market — a substantial discount to the value of its assets.

Unusually for a business of this nature, there is even an annual dividend. Last year, Whalley paid out 0.5p and he has committed to pay a dividend for 2009 as well. The shares are undervalued. Buy.

Brokers estimate that the farms that REG already runs are worth £30 million while those it intends to construct in the next few months are valued, even now, at about £13 million. Add in the £50 million-of cash that the company will have once the Canadian sale is completed and REG is worth some £93 million, even without ascribing any value to the oil business or the sites for which REG hopes to receive planning permission.


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