Europeans Actively Seek Green Investments

Friday, October 7, 2005

Europeans are eager to invest in green companies, and big investment banks and venture capitalists are turning over rocks in Canada to find them, says a fund manager from England.

Charlie Thomas, who manages almost $800 million Cdn in green investments for Jupiter Investment Group PLC, an subsidiary of German giant Commerzbank, said Europeans have a greater sense of urgency for sustainable products and services because the continent lacks natural resources.

"We are open to any investment and I don't care where they come from -- Singapore to Victoria. If it is something that is viable, people will invest," he says.

Thomas and five other European colleagues were in Victoria earlier this month touring the operations of Carmanah Technologies. Most of the firms have been heavily invested in the solar-light company since it went public in 1998 and have watched the stock price climb from under a dollar to a recent high of $3.89. "We came in at 70 cents, so we've made money for our unit holders," says Thomas.

While in Victoria, Carmanah chairman David Green arranged to have the fund managers meet with Dan Gunn, chief operating officer of the Vancouver Island Advanced Technology Centre, to open lines of communication between emerging green companies here and potential investors overseas.

It was a promise Green had made after winning VIATeC's Colin Lennox Award last year. It is handed out to individuals who champion the sector and have given the industry years of support outside of their own companies.

Gunn said contacts with European money is invaluable. "It's a great opportunity -- contacts that companies can turn to for that next stage in their growth," said Gunn. "Carmanah has taken a real leadership role for other sustainable companies."

Tony Tornquist of London-based Canaccord Capital, said heat waves in Europe and recent hurricanes in the U.S., are wake-up calls for more sustainable products and energy sources. "Compared with North Americans, Europeans have a substantial environmental bias in their portfolios ... have had for some time," said Tornquist, whose company is also invested in B.C. alternative-fuel companies Westport Innovations and Ballard.