Sunday, April 17, 2016
Obama's $2.7 billion loan guarantee for Abengoa solar power goes into the crapper. Dwarfs $550 million Solyndra debacle.
NEW YORK – The collapse of a Spanish-based multinational renewable energies company could cause election-year embarrassment not only to President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and the Democratic Party, but also to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and his wife Heidi, through their ties to Goldman Sachs.
Announced Tuesday, Seville-headquartered renewables multinational firm Abengoa plans to sell off four solar photovoltaic power plants in Spain for a collective value of $65.13 million, $57.26 million and a net cash flow of $13.9 million, helping the company meet its debt-restructuring targets set out in its feasibility plan.
The asset sale announced Tuesday comes after the company sold in February its 20 percent share in the 100MV Shams-1 concentrated solar power plant in the United Arab Emirates to the Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company Masdar.
The Abengoa selloff, which has included selling the company’s office headquarters in Madrid, is part of a non-strategic divestment plan announced after the company went into bankruptcy in November. The move is designed to reap approximately $112 million in operating cash to stay in business until December.
The bankruptcy, the largest in Spain’s history, was triggered after Gonvarri, an arm of Spain’s industrial group Gestamp, decided in November 2015 against a plan to invest $371 million into the company.
Last November, after the Abengoa bankruptcy was announced, Reuters reported the company’s bonds were “virtually worthless,” as its share price plummeted 54 percent in a single day.
In a separate move Tuesday, a local court in Mexico ordered the seizure of all Abengoa assets in the country in an effort to settle an action by bondholders seeking to prevent the company from selling the Mexican assets without paying the bondholders.
Abengoa’s stock closed Tuesday at $1.49 per share, down 68.46 percent since Sept. 4, 2015, underperforming S&P 500 by 75.78 percent.
Obama invested billions in Abengoa
Abengoa was a renewable energy company that scripted perfectly the Obama administration’s shift from carbon-based fuel, providing a European counterpart to the U.S.-based Solyndra.
Solyndra was earmarked for funding in the Obama “economic recovery” stimulus efforts that began in 2008 at the end of the George W. Bush administration after the bank failures and economic downturn occasioned by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market.
Last November, the Washington Times reported Abengoa had received at least $2.7 billion in federal loan guarantees since 2010 to build several large-scale solar power projects in the United States. There was no certainty any of the government loans would be paid back amid a collapse that dwarfed the $530 million loss to the U.S. taxpayer with the collapse of Solyndra in 2011.
An exposé by Town Hall on Aug. 4, 2012, found that the then-estimated $2.8 billion Abengoa received in U.S. federal grants and loans made the company the second largest recipient of the $16 billion doled out through the Department of Energy Section 1705 loan guarantee program, the same DOE program that had funded Solyndra.
Hillary Clinton, the Export Import Bank and Abengoa
In her 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has argued for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, insisting she wants to be “the small business president.”
Last June, Breitbart reported that under the Obama administration, Export-Import Bank lending has increased 248 percent, with U.S. taxpayers now holding nearly $140 billion in Export-Import Bank exposure.
The same article noted Abengoa has obligations of more than $225 million in Export-Import Bank support.
The article further observed that Bill Richardson, appointed by President Bill Clinton as secretary of energy from 1998-2001, was both an advisory board member to the Export-Import Bank and a member of the Abengoa advisory board at the time the Export-Import Bank loan commitments were made to Abengoa.
The Washington Free Beacon reported in January 2013 that the Export-Import Bank had approved a $78.6 million direct loan to Abengoa in December 2012, as well as a $73.6 million direct loan to a wind farm owned by Abengoa in Uruguay, noting Richardson’s conflict of interest.
The Free Beacon pointed out that the Export-Import Bank, as a function of extending taxpayer-backed loans to foreign buyers of U.S. exports, estimated approximately 510 American jobs would be supported by the Abengoa transactions.
“These two transactions demonstrate the strength of American energy technology and highlight the importance of this growing sector,” Export-Import Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg said in a statement, as reported by the Free Beacon.
“In order for the U.S. to compete globally, our companies must continue to produce cutting-edge energy technology,” the statement continued. “President Obama set an ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years, and these types of projects will help us meet that goal in 2015.”
In an update to the Free Beacon article, an Export-Import Bank spokesman insisted that Richardson “had no communication with anyone at the bank” regarding the Abengoa-related transactions.
Goldman Sachs, Ted Cruz and Abengoa
The fascination of Democratic Party politicos with Abengoa began in 2007, when former vice president Al Gore’s U.K. Generation Investment Management bought a stake in Abengoa, a company Gore touted as “the largest solar platform in Europe.”
Gore’s GIM was started in 2004 with several Goldman Sachs’ executives, including David Blood, Mark Ferguson and Peter Harris.
Today, Goldman Sachs has an Alternative Energy Group that specializes in investments of $10 million or more in renewable energy projects, including solar energy.
In November 2015, Goldman Sachs announced plans to invest $150 billion in renewable energy projects, including solar and wind farms, and energy efficiency upgrades for buildings and power grid infrastructure.
In a move typical of Wall Street, Goldman Sachs has turned the Abengoa bankruptcy into a profit alternative.
In 2014, Abengoa spun off a “yieldco” under the name “Abengoa Yield” as a NASDAQ-listed company that has taken “sufficient separateness provisions to insulate itself from the bankruptcy of the parent company, Spain’s Abengoa SA,” according to a report by rating agency Moody’s in March.
A “yieldco,” or “yielding company,” is a relatively new Wall Street innovation that has sprung up in the renewable energy sector since 2014, with strong support from Goldman Sachs.
A new “yielding company” is created to separate from the parent a dividend growth-oriented subsidiary company that bundles renewable energy operating assets to generate predictable cash flows to investors, even if the parent company is dissolved in bankruptcy liquidation.
The concept behind a yielding company is that the parent company developing renewable energy resources faces high risk, including insolvency. But renewable energies, once developed, should produce low-risk cash flows, especially if government subsidies remain in place.
Goldman Sachs, one of the Wall Street innovators in the “yieldco” phenomenon, is one of the 113 institutional shareholders owning Abengoa Yield shares, currently worth more than $45 million.
Today, Goldman Sachs’ enthusiasm for investing in renewable fuels mirrors Ted Cruz’s position on alternative energies. Cruz argues renewable fuels have a place in an “all of the above” energy economy, with the presumption they will succeed with consumers even if government price and policy intervention in the energy marketplace are phased out.
During the Iowa primary campaign, Cruz supported the Renewable Fuel Standard, RFS, through 2022, arguing for the retention for six more years of requirements set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum proportion of renewable fuels, including cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuel.
“My view on energy is simple: We should pursue an ‘all of the above’ policy,” Cruz wrote in the Des Moines Register on Jan. 6. “We should embrace all of the energy resources with which God has blessed America: oil and gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, and biofuels and ethanol. But Washington shouldn’t be picking winners and losers.”
He asserted his tax plan would phase out all subsidies and mandates, including renewable fuel standards and the RFS requirements, arguing that antitrust laws would ensure that the oil and gas industry would not be able to block market access for ethanol producers.
Cruz’s argument depended on a presumption that U.S. consumers, allowed full market access, would find “quite popular” mid-level ethanol products like E25 or E30. Should that proposition prove false, Cruz proposed no alternative to rescue renewable fuels from losing in the open competition of a fuel market absent government intervention.
While Cruz has criticized the Obama administration guaranteed loans to Solyndra, he has been silent on the Abengoa bankruptcy and the development of Abengoa Yield, which generates profits today for investors like Goldman Sachs while the U.S. taxpayer takes millions of dollars of losses on government-subsidized loans.