Unlikely names invest in clean technology

Investing in the stock market to fund clean energy in Middle East is not always easy, investors said.

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If you were wishing to invest your funds in saving the planet, it is unlikely that the first names to come to mind would include Halliburton or BP.

Few listed companies in the Gulf are active in clean technology, which complicates raising capital from the retail investors who account for the vast majority of the UAE's stock market trading.

Compounding the problem, listed companies investing in clean technology in the region were not always obvious, said Ennis Rimawi, the managing director and founder of Catalyst, a private equity firm specialising in energy and water projects in the Arab world.

BP has ploughed money into solar technology in the region, while Halliburton has invested heavily into increasing energy efficiency in the oil and gas sector through more energy-efficient drilling devices.

Neither are synonymous with green investment in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but their contribution to cleaning up a dirty industry is significant, Mr Rimawi said.

Unlike European and American markets, which teem with listed clean-tech companies such as Veolia Environmental Services, the waste management company, or Vestas, the wind turbine manufacturer, there are scarce opportunities available for Gulf investors.

Although there are Gulf-focused companies emphasising energy efficiency in the oil and gas industry, such as the oilfield services providers Petrofac and Lamprell, such opportunities are scarcer in the Gulf than in the US relative to the size of its oil output, Mr Rimawi said.

"In the GCC, which is as big a producer of oil and gas, you've probably 1 per cent of the market capitalisation of companies that serve that sector."

While European and western equity funds exist that cater to "green" investors, this type of investment is often a hard sell, said Jahangir Aka, the senior executive officer at SEI Investments in Dubai, a financial services firm focused on wealth management.

"Because of the green aspect it gets a lot of publicity," he said. "It's an emotional case, and there's not been a proven investment case for this yet. That makes it a very difficult structure for a retail level.

"It really is within the realm of the ultra-high net worth individual. It's a very high-risk trade with a long-term payout."