Clean tech investment drops in first quarter: surveys
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Worldwide investment in clean technology suffered a steep decline in the first quarter of 2009 as the difficulty of pushing through initial public offerings (IPOs) of start-ups across many sectors hit record lows, three surveys showed on Wednesday.
Although the surveys used different methodologies, their messages were the same -- investment is down in clean tech and other areas and it won't rebound in the near-term.
Deloitte and Cleantech Group reported that investment in clean technology dropped 41 percent in the first quarter, compared to the last quarter of 2008.
Greentech Media surveyed a different set of clean tech companies but its overall conclusions were the same:
"The numbers are approximately back to 2007 levels," Greentech said. It found 59 deals worth $836 million, while Cleantech -- which included China and India -- found 82 deals worth $1 billion.
Eric Wesoff, author of the Greentech Media study, said that the IPO situation would not improve soon.
"Before we see a wave of IPOs in 2012, we're going to see attrition and consolidation in the next couple of years," he said. He predicted that of more than 200 solar companies founded in the past two years only 20 will survive, based on historic patterns.
"Clean tech venture investments have now declined for two consecutive quarters since peaking at $2.6 billion" in the third quarter of 2008, Cleantech reported. Cleantech said the lack of money has forced companies to turn to government.
"Governments globally are allocating historic amounts of capital to clean technologies through stimulus packages, loan guarantees and tax incentives, which will enable the clean tech industry to continue to develop," it said.
Both surveys found that the biggest sector in clean, green technology continues to be solar.
Cleantech said that there was $346 million invested among its 82 companies, while Greentech found $356 million invested among its 59 companies. The companies broke out their deals in different ways so no direct comparison is possible.
Cleantech found biofuels at $96 million, advanced batteries at $94 million, and electric vehicles at $78 million. Greentech's figures were slightly higher for some of the sectors, but the picture was the same.
Cleantech said there were four IPOs in the clean tech sector, but none were in the United States. One was in Switzerland and three in China.
The biggest IPO was by China Singyes Solar Technologies Holdings Ltd., a solar service provider, which raised $8.1 million on the Hong Kong Futures Exchange.
Meanwhile, yet another survey showed the dwindling number of IPO's across sectors.
The National Venture Capital Association and Thomson Reuters did their own survey and found that for the first time ever, two consecutive quarters elapsed without any initial public offerings (IPOs) for venture-backed U.S. companies.
A traditional source of funds has been universities, but they pulled back because of the recession.
"Endowments and foundations, because they have operating needs within their entities, are much more selective about investing in venture because it has such a long time horizon," said Joanna Rees, managing partner of VSP Capital in San Francisco.
The payback period can be five years, seven years or more and hard-hit universities and pension funds need a quick return on investment these days, she said.
(Reporting by David Lawsky; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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