Countless hydrogen companies have gone public in recent years. Some of them have soared, others have gone down. What is clear, however, is that the hydrogen economy, which is now noticeably gaining momentum, will produce a number of new energy giants.
This could also include some IPO candidates that we are not yet able to invest in directly. EKPO Fuel Cell, Nucera and Sunfire for example. But who actually owns them and could it be worth betting on the current owners?
EKPO Fuel Cell
At EKPO, the owners are hidden in the name: ElringKlinger (WKN: 785602) and Plastic Omnium (WKN: 871780), which hold 60 and 40% shares. Both are established automotive suppliers who brought their respective strengths to the joint venture two years ago.
For years, ElringKlinger has worked on research projects to improve bipolar plates and their cost-effective mass production. The Germans were financially strapped, so it was fitting that the highly profitable Plastic Omnium provided financial and engineering resources to speed up the venture.
The French, on the other hand, faced the challenge of mastering the transition from the world of combustion engines to electromobility. Unlike many other suppliers, they are not primarily looking for their luck in battery systems and electric motors, but rely heavily on hydrogen. Pressure vessels and integrated solutions are also part of the portfolio there. Plastic Omnium strengthens the latter with the recent acquisition of ACTIA Power.
Nucera was formed earlier this year from Uhde Chlorine Engineers. The German-Italian joint venture is owned by Thyssenkrupp (WKN: 750000) and Industrie De Nora (WKN: A3DK0W). As a leading company in chlor-alkali electrolysis, Nucera sees itself in an excellent position to play a leading role in water electrolysis as well.
A number of promising strategic partnerships and the first major international orders give reason to hope that the plan will work. Another trump card that Nucera can play is its embedding in heavy industry through its shareholders. In this way, customers can confidently discuss the requirements for integrated solutions.
It is still unclear whether the option of going public will be used or whether a multi-billion dollar sale will be made to a competitor. Things went faster for De Nora, which has been listed on the stock exchange since June.
While De Nora holds just over a third of Nucera’s shares, it may be the more interesting company of the two. Its anode, cathode and membrane technologies are not only used in chlor-alkali and water electrolysers, but also in redox flow batteries and in water treatment for a wide variety of applications. This has a future!
For many years, Sunfire has been one of the most conspicuous players in the hydrogen environment in Germany, which takes a holistic view of the topic and therefore actively seeks to close ranks with complementary technology suppliers.
Since acquiring Staxera in 2011, Sunfire has been one of the most promising developers of solid oxide fuel cells and electrolyzers (SOFC/SOEC). These are operated at high temperatures and have a number of advantages. This includes, for example, the high tolerance for the energy sources supplied, the possible use of industrial waste heat and the reversible mode, which turns the electrolyser into a fuel cell and vice versa.
Over the years, Sunfire has repeatedly included new investors in the group of shareholders in various financing rounds. In 2014, for example, TotalEnergies (NASDAQ:TSO) and EDF (NASDAQ:EDF) acquired shares in Sunfire. Most recently, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Blue Earth Capital joined with a cash injection of 86 million euros.
Opportunities for defensive hydrogen investors
Hydrogen stocks are now a dime a dozen. And together with the unlisted, it’s even more. Most of them are poorly investable. For example, at Sunfire we have to wait for the company to go public.
In the case of Nucera and EKPO, on the other hand, an indirect stake could make sense, shareholders such as De Nora and Plastic Omnium hold large shares and are also active in complementary segments related to electrolysis, fuel cells and hydrogen. And if, contrary to expectations, the hydrogen business cannot survive in the face of competition, they offer a reassuring safety net thanks to their profitable business areas.