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Maritime cleantech beats the market?

Some cleantech brands are beating the stock indexes by a significant margin, despite still being slowed bown by the pandemic induced market decline. Craig Eason looks at the details.

A year ago I examined the growing stock price of a number of listed Greentech firms. with something of a focus on shipping. The companies we chose were Ballard Power Systems, Climeon, Scanship (now renamed Vow), I-Tech, NEL, along with Alfa Laval and Wärtsilä. At the end of the first half of 2019 these companies, some of which could boast phenomenal stock price rises, had of course no idea what 2020 would bring. So I thought I would take another look to see how they are faring.

This time I have added ABB and put them into two groupings – Dedicated Greens and Mixed Greens – the latter being ABB, Alfa Laval and Wärtsilä as their products and services portfolios are not exclusive to pure play environmental technologies. It has also to be noted that most of these companies are not only focused on shipping and maritime sectors, but also automobile, heavy land transport, power etc. In order to monitor these companies I have a small portfolio of shares in these companies through Nordnet, a Stockholm-based  investment and savings bank, from where the data comes from.

So I looked at the shares again, and got in touch with Mads Johannesen, Investment Economist at Nordnet to ask  about general trends in cleantech stock and why we see some significant market differences.  He confirmed that the  general trend for sustainable (ESG) stocks is extremely positive. 

“We have seen a huge interest both from institutional and retail investor for the “pure play companies”. It is nonetheless the “E” (environmental) part that has drawn some what most attention among investors. I guess this is because of the overwhelming focus from the government side on the “new and green” focus, especially on the energy side,” he noted. He also pointed out that the Paris Agreement has underscored tis as it has encouraged nations  to deal with climate change, making these types of solutions essential in that battle.

“ This has contributed to a massive increase in these companies share price. And many stocks have increased 2-300 percent over a relatively short amount of time.”

The largest increase over the last three years from this small portfolio is VOW, formerly Scanship ( +1088%), which sells water cleaning and other systems into the cruise ship and aquaculture markets, but through recent acquisitions has expanded into land based services, notably as it develops a pyrolysis solution. This increase comes despite a drop of over 15% of its stock price during 2020 so far. One of the biggest drops in share price has been Wärtsilä which has a multi-pronged solution and service base. It has seen its share price drop by over 62% over three years, and by 27% of the first 8 months of 2020.

Institutional pressure

There is also a growing trend for funds to drop stock according to Johannesen who pointed to funds with restrictions with regards to ESG standards. This has been seen elsewhere and Nordea bank senior advisor on sustainable finance Thina Saltvedt, said last year that there is growing pressure to have ESG compliant investment and institutional investors are being forced by their own shareholders to have ESG compliant portfolios.

Johannesen at Nordnet adds that pressure is increasing on every layer in the market for sustainable finance options. Funds are not the only point of pressure of course, the recently published sustainable bond guidelines by the Climate Bonds Initiative are set to put pressure on companies seeking to raise debt through bonds. You can hear CBI chief executive Sean Kidney talk about the standards by which shipping can call a bond as meeting its criteria in a recent episode of Fathom’s Aronnax Podcast.

Eating your greens

 So it is no surprise then that retail and institutional investors are looking for cleantech stock, companies which can demonstrate sustainability, not only in terms of products that support environmental objectives being set by governments, but also are sustainable companies in that their products will remain in demand as society and industry become clean and green.

Looking at the first half reports of these companies reveals mixed impact of the coronavirus response. Some have yet to realise any severe impact, which may be more to do with their business to business portfolios where there are potentially lengthy lead times between contact and fulfilment and the revenue hitting the bottom line.

But while some companies took a hit at the start of the pandemic, there is a strong focus on ESG and IT related stock says  Nordnet’s Johannesen. Companies like NEL, Scatec Solar (whose largest shareholder is Equinor) and even Oslo-listed Bonhuer (Fred Olsen) have experienced a massive increase in their share price.  

Mixed greens stock price developments
Pure play green tech stock price developments
Nel

Oslo-listed NEL manufacturers electrolysers for the creation of hydrogen from water and electricity, hydrogen fuelling stations and other infrastructure needed for the hydrogen society. 

It has a growing focus on shipping, mostly through Hyon, its joint venture with Powercell and Hexagon Composites, which is looking at maritime fuel cells.

In its latest financial report (Q2 2020) it reported increased revenues and an earnings (EBITDA) loss of NKr 22.3m, which is an improvement year on year.

Notably the company has been repeatedly issuing shares over the year, nearly 173m in the first half of the year, as it raises cash to invest in growth and take advantage of the opportunities of recent government focuses on hydrogen.

On that front however it has expressed disappointment with Norway’s hydrogen strategy which was revealed in June 2020 which it says has no concrete targets and no support for infrastructure roll-out, focusing instead on pilot projects.

Nel believes Norway’s hydrogen strategy will leave the country behind and is in strong contrast to recently announced ambitious targets across Europe.

Climeon

Climeon is largely a company offering a geothermal heat to electricity solution, but also offers a waste heat recovery solution for shipping, notably cruise ships.  After listing October 2017 at about 45 SKr, now at 58.2Skr, reached high of 102 Skr in April 2019 but saw heavy drop in the latter half of 2019 and then when the pandemic struck, dropping to a little over SKr 31 in March 2020. While reporting an operating loss of SKr 68.6m for the first half of this year, which is lower than the SKr 50.4m loss for the same period in 2019, with a subsequent decline in sales, the company has also seen its order intake for the period double from SKr 24.5m to SKr 56.3m.

Climeon CEO Thomas Öström wrote in the report that the company continues to be successful, largely through expansion into new territories with its geothermal business. As Climeon has one or two clients in the cruise industry he points out that the collapse of the cruise industry market put a halt on work on a vessel for Virgin Voyages (it has a contract for 4 Virgin Voyages vessels)  and the company not being permitted on board Maersk’s vessels, with commissioning possibly delayed until next year.

Low fuel prices in shipping have also a negative impact on interest in shipping for Climeon’s solution. With the negative impact the company has restructured its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden.

I-Tech

Göteborg-based I-Tech is as much a biotech firm as a maritime company. The company listed on the Stockholm First North Growth Market in May 2019 with nearly 12m shares.

Stockholm-listed, Göteborg-based I-Tech is as much a biotech firm as a maritime company. It has gained press coverage because its product, which is added to ships’ hulls coatings by the main manufacturers, repels barnacle larvae from ships rather than kills them. Its active ingredient – Selektope – was derived form an existing drug. The company is to this day still located in the same address as Swedish pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca.  I-Tech sells its product – the Selektope additive – to paint manufacturers, who then market their hull coatings as  more environmentally sound products. It has a long term and multi-product contract with Japans Chugoku Marine Paints (CMP) but also with Norway’s Jotun and Hempel in Denmark.

Its revenues are therefore closely linked to the sales of these coatings’ manufacturers products containing Selektope. Net sales for the first half amounted to Skr29.7m compared to SKr18.7m year-on-year. Which led to an operating loss of SKr0.9m, an improvement of the SKr5.3m loss for the same period 2019. CEO Philip Chaabane put this increase in sales to a strengthened position of CMP in several markets, including the coating company’s sales of Selektope-based products.

The company retains Skr39.9m cash, which is similar to previous years. In terms of how the covid-19 pandemic response has hit I-Tech the company noted higher logistics costs but said that a development of the pandemic in India could impact production, although it has, according to the CEO, improved its production processes and secured a second supplier of Selektope.

In earlier updates Chaabane has talked about the potential to impregnate Selektope into polyurethane materials as the company seeks new market opportunities.

Powercell

Powercell builds fuel cell stacks, mostly for land-based use including stationary use and truck and automobile. But it has also begun to market itself into the marine sector, notably through the co ownership of Hyon with NEL and Hexagon.

One of its biggest clients is Bosch in Germany, which has now become one of its largest shareholders (11.5%)

In April 2020 the company announced a contract with a shipyard in Europe for the development and delivery of 3-megawatt marine fuel cell system over the coming three years. The value is SKr77m (€6.9m). There was no other information from Powercell abut the contract. However earlier in the year the company also delivered a fuel cell system to Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri which the yard will use to test fuel cell technology. Last year Powercell also signed a contract with Norwegian shipyard Havyard Group for a system to be installed on one of the four zero emission coastal passenger vessels being built for Havila Kystruten. The system wil be a series of marinized 200kW fuel cell system modules that when connected in parallel give total power of 3.2MW. In the press announcement at the time (now former) CEO Per Wassen claimed this would be “the most powerful maritime fuel cell system in history”.

The company said that the coronavirus pandemic has so far had a limited impact on its business.

While Powercell saw its net sales increase over the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019, fromSKr24.8m to  SKr 48.8m,  its operating income resulted in a loss. The company reported a net loss of SKr42.5m for the first half 2020 compared to a profit of SKr 488.7m for the first six months of 2019. In its second half financial report the company attributed much of this to higher research and development work, currency affects and administration costs. Earnings per share over the first half of this year amounted to a 0.79 kronor loss compared to the 9.4 profit a year earlier.

Ballard Power Systems

Ballard develops and builds fuel cells which can be fuelled by a variety of fuel sources, including natural gas, hydrogen. It reported its first half 2020 results on August 5th. In the report company president and CEO Randy MacEwen wrote: “While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause some delays in customer orders, it has not had an appreciable impact on Ballard operations to this point and we continue to take important precautions to mitigate its impact on our people and our business,” 

The company’s main focus is on Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), particularly heavy-duty vehicles. The group has withdrawn its forecast for 2020 in light of the pandemic but has continued to report orders and activity for hydrogen fuel cells from around the world.

Investment in research and product development has increased year on year, and the company is about to reveal a new marine modular hydrogen fuel cell on September 10th.

Vow

At the start of 2020 Oslo-listed Scanship changed its name to Vow following the acquisition of Etia in France, a company focused on bio-energy or getting energy out of waste. The move helped Vow strengthen its land based solutions, notably as it was also developing a marine pyrolosis to help tuen cruise ship waste into power.

The larger part of its marine systems though are sold t the cruise industry, and consist of waste water purification, foodwaste, waste recycling. It has also moved into aquaculture market.

For the first half of 2020 Vow ASA reported 247.8m NKr in revenue (up from 181.3 M NKR YoY), with a result before tax of 34.8m NKR (20 m NKr

About Author

Craig Eason Stockholm
Craig Eason is the owner and editorial director of Fathom.World. He has a background in the shipping industry having started his career as a cadet on oil tankers and gas carriers before becoming a navigating officer on a range of vessel types. A change in career, with ensuing university studies, and he has now gained 20 years experience in written and broadcast journalism. He now is in demand as a knowledgeable and competent editor and event host and moderator, both for in-house events and ones for the public.