December 7, 2015 / 7:47 PM / 4 years ago

Investors shrug off climate summit investment pledges

(Reuters) - World leaders gathered in Paris for climate talks are pledging billions of dollars to improve the environment, but green-company investors are not impressed by the promises, seeing little immediate benefit to the companies they buy.

A participant arrives during sunset at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 6, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

As the two-week United Nations summit enters its final phase, clean energy stocks have gained little ground, and several fund managers say they have not been doing any additional buying as a result of the gathering.

Even if the talks see big commitments for alternative energy development, the money will not start flowing for several years and many of the pledges are aimed at early stage projects that are not run by publicly traded companies, they said.

“I have quite low expectations of anything meaningful coming out of Paris” for the near term, said Edward Guinness, portfolio manager at the Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy Fund in London.

Guinness said that if the agreement is stronger than he expects it may still not benefit alternative energy companies for years, potentially until 2021.

The UN summit, which runs through Dec. 11 and has almost 200 countries participating, is aimed at planning actions by rich and poor nations beyond 2020 to curb greenhouse gas emissions blamed for warming the planet.

The United States, France, India and 17 other countries have promised to double the amount they were collectively expected to spend on clean energy research and development to $20 billion in the next five years. In addition to the public pledges, a group of 28 private investors led by Bill Gates said they would pump billions of dollars in seed money into research and development.

Since the summit began last week, the Market Vectors Global Alternative Strategy exchange-trading fund GEX.P, which includes wind, solar, electric car and water treatment companies, has moved up about 1 percent, but it remains down 1.6 percent so far in 2015. Tesla Motors (TSLA.O), an expected beneficiary of international focus on battery-powered transportation, has risen less than 1 percent since the summit started, though it is up about 5 percent so far in 2015.

Other fund managers including Murray Rosenblith, a portfolio manager of the renewable-energy focused New Alternatives Fund; Kevin Walenta, portfolio manager of the Fidelity Select Environment and Alternative Energy Portfolio; and Robert Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management, said the talks so far had not produced any market-moving news. Rosenblith and others said they did not expect the talks to prompt them to make any changes to their portfolios.

Some analysts were more bullish on the talks than investors. In a note circulated at the start of the talks, Goldman Sachs said the growing focus on low emissions would benefit Tesla, lithium supplier Albemarle (ALB.N) and solar-panel efficiency specialist SolarEdge Technologies (SEDG.O). It also cited lighting stocks like Acuity Brands (AYI.N).

Goldman said any agreement would be seen as a success.

Wall Street’s biggest response might come if the talks somehow derailed altogether, said investors, including Ewen Cameron Watt, global chief investment strategist at BlackRock Inc’s (BLK.N) Investment Institute. The companies they invest in will have to pay higher legal and insurance costs “if the final treaty is underwhelming,” he said.

Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Marcus Howard; Editing by Andrew Hay

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