Heliocentris – Profile of a Listed Fuel Cell Company

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Ayad Abul-Ella, © S. Roth, Heliocentris

Heliocentris was founded in 1995 as a supplier of teaching materials. After a successful takeover bid for P21 in 2011, the company headquartered in Berlin, Germany, diversified its business activities and has since expanded its product portfolio to include hybrid power solutions for energy management, particularly for customers in the telecommunications sector. The expressed aim of the business – “Substitute diesel units by fuel cells” – has remained and has likewise sparked much investment in electrolysis systems. In 2012, Heliocentris entered into a cooperation with Italian Acta, which manufactures non-platinum electrolysis systems. The cooperation has resulted in a number of new emergency supply systems equipped with either H2 cylinder packs or electrolysis units.

The shares of Heliocentris, however, have suffered a sharp drop in price over the past year. Company founder Henrik Colell told H2-international that one of the reasons was the company’s development, which could not meet the expectations of some investors who had thought growth to exceed 17% in 2015. “When it comes to a small-cap stock like Heliocentris, one single fund looking to divest its shares can be enough to exert immense pressure and push the stock into free fall,” the CTO said. A London-based fund had sold half of its shares in the company at the end of 2015 and the other half in June 2016.

Another difficulty was last May’s switch of the fuel cell manufacturer from entry to prime standard listing, which heightened investor pressure. Colell explained: “The low revenue is primarily a result of delays in orders from the Middle East and Asia because of the low diesel price and the post-election market uncertainties in Burma, which have led to a halt in business activities there.” And they had underestimated the “crazy long product life cycles,” Colell added.

In January 2016, Sabine Kauper became the new CFO of Heliocentris and has since been working to implement a number of “restructuring efforts.” Some personnel …

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A recent partial success that Heliocentris was able to achieve was the April 2016 follow-up order about 22 emergency power systems for locations of the BOS Digital Radio Network. In the second quarter, the company also entered into a framework agreement with a leading network equipment supplier and concluded a contract to provide hydrogen solutions for 50 cell phone towers of the Etisalat mobile phone network in the United Arab Emirates. However, these agreements valued at around EUR 4 million in total did not stop the downward trend of the share price. Ayad Abul-Ella, CEO of Heliocentris, concluded during this year’s annual general meeting: “We are in a very difficult spot.” His aim was to “lead the company into a sustainable future.” Still, Heliocentris had to revise its forecast for fiscal year 2016 at the end of August, cutting expected revenue in half from July’s figure of between EUR 20 to 25 million.

Spontaneous change on the supervisory board

Additionally, Heliocentris Energy Solutions announced at the end of May 2016 that Oliver Borrmann, a long-time associate, had decided to pursue other ventures. Borrmann, who had chaired the supervisory board since May 2006, said: “Since bmp is no longer a shareholder, it is now – after ten years – time to leave the supervisory board.” Colell explained that bmp Holding had supported Heliocentris since 1999, which was a comparably long period for a venture capital fund.

The prospective successor to Borrmann had been Bernd Brunke, senior vice president of Hypovereinsbank from 2014 through 2016. Brunke was supposed to be elected to the supervisory board during the annual general meeting on July 5, 2016, and then to its chair. But in the end, the job went to Klaas de Boer, who had already been part of the board since Oliver Krautscheid’s exit in 2015. De Boer is managing director of Entrepreneurs Fund Management Services as well as managing partner of Entrepreneurs Fund Management. Michael Stammler, who has been on the supervisory board since 2008, was …

The establishment of Home Power Solutions in December 2014 under the management of Henrik Colell and Zeyad Abul-Ella has produced a spin-off in a presumably profitable field (energy management as well as residential market fuel cells). In contrast, further education (Academia) continues to require plenty of personnel and is not particularly profitable, which means its future will remain in doubt.

read more: Heliocentris Files for Bankruptcy

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