France: Restructuring SAED
SAED or Sophia Antipolis Energie Developpement, which is a start-up located in the south of France, produces a heat pipe protected by two patents. The company developed a vacuum tube collector which has been used to build low-cost large-scale solar thermal installations for solar heating, as well as solar industrial processes. In mid-April, SAED was put under turnaround after being declared insolvent. The company is now seeking an investor or buyer while still continuing its two current projects: The district heating network combining solar heat and biomass in Balma is under construction and the consultation process is running regarding a solar district heating network in Juvignac, Montpellier, France. Solarthermalworld.org spoke with Franck Giaoui, Managing Director of SAED, about the company´s future.
Solarthermalworld.org: Under which conditions was a receiver appointed?
Giaoui: The court approved the turnaround plan and appointed the lawyer Nathalie Thomas as administrator in mid-April. The preferred solution would be a continuation plan with a business focused on designing, manufacturing and marketing our special type of heat pipe collector. We will propose turnkey facilities only through partnerships with engineering firms and that’s why we will probably part ways with our project managers. The plan includes up to EUR 1.2 million of fresh money provided by an investor or potential buyer.
Solarthermalworld.org: Friday, 28 June, was the deadline for potential investors to submit their continuation proposals?
Giaoui: The first step has been successful. We received several proposals by major international investors so far and they will now be discussed in a second step. The court will meet and decide about the various proposals on 24 July. New and improved offers can be submitted until two days in advance. We are optimistic that we can find a suitable financial partner for our business.
Solarthermalworld.org: How do you intend to get new clients interested in your business?
Giaoui: We are looking for a buyer with a strong industrial and commercial standing or financial resources. In the first case, our technology would be easier to market. If the buyer can provide the appropriate financial resources, we will follow the target of establishing a number of reference projects. We could imagine to partly pre-finance the solar thermal collector field for a selected client and to repay the investment through the project’s energy savings. This could be a viable model to create a number of reference projects and to increase customer trust in our new technology.
Solarthermalworld.org: Some solar thermal players report that it’s difficult to convince banks to finance their projects. Have you experienced such difficulties?
Giaoui: As we rely on our own capital, we haven’t applied for a loan from a bank. The banks’ attitude, however, has a direct effect on our customers. When technologies are well-known, with references on the market, I feel like they are easily bankable. On the other hand, lesser known products such as ours – even though low cost – are difficult to finance and that’s why we want to either rely on a well-known investor or increase our number of reference projects first.
The interview was conducted by Lydie Bahjejian, a French author and solar thermal specialist based in Paris.