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San Diego wind turbine maker to buy two companies

23 August 2009 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A San Diego wind energy company is expanding its product line, riding on Obama’s push for alternative energy and a growing overseas market.

Helix Wind (OTC: HLXW), a San Diego wind turbine maker, has signed agreements to buy two companies in Portland, Ore. in a deal worth as much as $6.5 million. The non-binding contracts cover the assets of Abundant Renewable Energy LLC and Renewable Engineering LLC, which have the same owners.

The deal will enable Helix to offer more low cost, low-end wind turbines, which appeal to a broader range of customers.

“Our strategy is to acquire the best small wind-related technologies out there to serve vertical markets,” said Ian Gardner, co-founder and chief executive officer. “What we’re finding is that… different markets have different physical operating characteristics and financial models. Our strategy is to target specific solutions for different conditions.”

According to the contract, Helix will buy the companies for $4 million to $6.5 million in stock and cash, depending on how well ARE and RE perform in coming weeks. ARE and RE are currently in bankruptcy court, which must approve the sale. The deal is expected to close by early October.

The purchase is Helix’s second acquisition in two months. The company announced in June plans to buy another low-end wind turbine maker, Germany-based Venco Power, for as much as 3 million euros (roughly U.S. $4.2 million) in a similar deal.

The purchase commitments for all three companies total about $8 million to $10 million, mostly in stocks. “If they perform more, they get more, and less if they perform less,” said Gardner.

Helix Wind currently sells higher-end wind turbines with sleeker designs. Its current products can sustain winds up to 100 miles per hour and have “high aesthetics.” These high- end models, which sell for about $250,000 can generate 120,000 kilowatt hours per year — enough to power 10 to 12 homes.

In contrast, the low-end products from the acquisition companies operate up to 40 mph, and have more basic propeller designs. These turbines sell for about $4,500 and can power 2000 kilowatt hours per year – or 20 percent of an average household.

These turbines appeal to a broad range of residential and commercial buyers, including homeowners, hotels, hospitals, cruise resorts, governments and businesses worldwide.

“The highest growth is domestically because of Obama’s incentives,” said Gardner, “and in the next 18 to 24 months it will be developing nations.”

The low-end turbines could also appeal to users in San Diego, which has low Santa Ana winds. Homeowners might use them,” if they can mount a 60-foot tower in their backyard and not worry about aesthetics,” Gardner said.

Big wind farms, such as those made famous by Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, suffer from a lack of transmission lines to residential areas. But small wind turbines offer more self-sufficiency.

Gardner said wind energy companies have often focused too much on the technology and not enough on giving consumers what they want. He said the new acquisitions will enable Helix to appeal to broader range of buyers. “We view this as a consumer electronics business,” he said.

Helix has raised $5.1 million as of July and is preparing for another round of fundraising, which will help complete the acquisitions. Founded in 2006, the company started shipping its own products and generating revenue late last year.

Based in Barrio Logan, Helix Wind currently has 14 full-time and part-time employees who focus on research and development. Manufacturing is done in Southeast Asia.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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