Energy-saving boiler maker Whisper Tech eyes IPO

LONDON (Reuters) - A New Zealand firm is hoping to beat rivals to Britain’s lucrative boiler replacement market with its energy-efficient product and says an IPO in Europe could be on the cards as it ramps up production.

Whisper Tech, controlled by New Zealand state power group Meridian, expects to be profitable within a year and is examining its funding options over the next 12-18 months as it moves into mass production.

“It could be an IPO in Europe or the UK, it could be a sale. It depends on the state of the market and who’s interested. Our current investors have been involved for 10-15 years and are starting to think ‘what should my exit (strategy) be?’” Managing Director David Moriarty said in an interview.

Whisper Tech makes combined heat and power boilers -- energy-efficient heating systems that not only provide hot water and heating but also produce electricity as a by-product, which can contribute to household power needs or be sold back to the electricity supplier, payments known as feed-in tariffs (FITs).

Unlike competitors such as Ceres Power, which have been beset by delays, Whisper Tech is shipping 100,000 of its energy-efficient WhisperGen CHP units to Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium in a bid to win a slice of the market.

Now with the backing of power giant E.ON it will launch in the UK -- Europe’s biggest boiler market with 1.6 million installed every year -- before winter 2011, supplying 80,000 units over five years.

UK-listed Ceres, which is targeting 40,000 boilers over four years backed by Centrica’s British Gas, the leading installer of gas boilers in the UK, said in September its CHP unit would not hit the market until mid-2012, delaying a 2011 launch because of hardware and software issues.

“We’re the established leader in our market ... Our boilers are already in use and commercially available in Europe. With over 10 million domestic boilers sold each year in Europe and North America, the worldwide potential for microCHP is massive,” said Moriarty.

Barriers remain, including marketing the high-end product in cash-strapped times and the need to build a network of installers familiar with CHPs.

In the UK, the WhisperGen would cost about 2,000 pounds more than an traditional boiler, but Moriarty estimates households would recoup this through savings and FITs over the first four years of the boiler’s 10-12 year life expectancy.

Reporting by Jon Loades-Carter; Editing by Victoria Bryan and David Hulmes