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Cleantech investment so hot that ‘you just can’t lose’ – Toronto Star

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To make good on all those net-zero commitments made at last month’s United Nations summit in Glasgow, we are going to need to dramatically scale up and deploy new technologies that will allow us to transform our economies to climate-friendly energy sources. It’s not going to be easy.

It will require the emergence of a vast array of new firms to create energy efficiency and new industrial processes, as well as renewable and non-emitting sources of energy. However, it takes time for ventures to develop from startup stage to full commercial capacity, and it takes patient investors to provide the capital needed to nourish that growth. Fledgling companies can survive on government grants and individual investors in their early years, but they need access to private capital to commercialize their products.

“Venture capitalists are catalysts for change,” says Dave Caputo, CEO of Trusscore, which manufactures sustainable building products. “Where they put their money, change will happen.”

While many cleantech firms have struggled to attract capital over the past decade, that’s starting to change with the financial industry’s embrace of ESG investing — which focuses on companies that commit to good environmental, social and governance practices.

In fact, venture capital investors are now competing for most promising Canadian cleantech firms.

Money is flowing

Amanda Hall, CEO of Calgary-based Summit Nanotech, pulled out of $10-million (U.S.) deal with an American venture capital firm last October because the investor demanded she move her company to the United States. She immediately had three other venture firms looking to fill the void, and on Dec. 17 she is scheduled to close an $14-million (U.S.) deal that will let her continue building her team and prospect in new markets. Summit Nanotech is now building two pilot projects — one in Chile and one in California — that extract lithium from briny groundwater for use in electric-vehicle batteries; this funding will also help Hall expand into new markets.

“It’s wild. The market is so hot and the returns are so big that you just can’t lose,” says Hall, who won the $1-million prize for the Women in Cleantech Challenge earlier this month.

Is she worried that this new interest from investors is just a passing fad? Hall points to the massive investment needed to transform the global economy. “It’s financing a transition we need to see happen,” she says. “EVs are not a bubble, and lithium is following EVs. It’s going to get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Indeed, Hall is riding a wave of enthusiasm.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada said its stable of 140 startup companies raised a record $2.35 billion in the first eight months of this year, mostly from venture firms and stock markets. That’s 2.5 times the amount raised in all of 2020, which was a good year despite the pandemic. Similarly, the Canadian Venture Capital Association noted that cleantech companies raised $380 million in the third quarter this year, more than triple the amount for 2020. (The CVCA has a narrower definition of cleantech than the SDTC.)

After the pandemic began, “we thought there would be a pull back and more risk aversion among investors to these high-growth areas,” says Rachael Moir, SDTC’s manager for portfolio insights. Instead, governments and the corporate world have continued to ratchet up their climate-change commitments, which in turn drives investor appetite. “I just don’t see that going away now,” Moir said. “These companies have a really strong value proposition.”

More investment firms are now earmarking specific funds for cleantech or ESG or impact funds that back companies that can calculate specific environmental benefits.

In October, Palmerston, Ont.-based Trusscore closed a $26-million financing deal that was led by Toronto venture firm Round 13 Capital. Trusscore was the first investment from Round 13’s recently established Earth Tech Fund that will back companies with complementary environmental and commercial goals. The company will expand its manufacturing capacity and sales staff for its plastics-based product that replaces drywall.

Venture firms are particularly attracted to cleantech companies that provide software and artificial intelligence products that enhance the performance of clean energy technology, but do not require a lot of upfront capital. EnPowered, which has offices in both Kitchener, Ont. and Columbus, Ohio, raised $12 million in November from a group of venture capital firms to expand its business providing software that makes it easier for existing companies to purchase energy-efficiency technology.

EnPowered’s initial product unlocked $184 million worth of energy savings for its customers by utilizing automated systems to avoid peak electricity prices in the wholesale market. Now the company is commercializing a payments platform that lets companies use their existing utility billing systems to pay off investment in clean technology over many years.

“We are really excited by the level of investor confidence in our approach and in the industry as a whole,” says EnPowered founder and CEO Tomas van Stee.

Closing the gap

Despite the growth, financing for cleantech solutions is still lagging what is need to meet the lofty goals laid down in Glasgow and prevent the escalation of extreme-weather disasters such as we’ve seen in British Columbia.

All too often, Canadian companies have to rely on foreign investors, which carries a risk that the firms would shift some operations outside the country after significant investments by taxpayers.

In a report released in October, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices noted that investment in clean technology is growing but “not at the pace needed to get ahead of global market change and establish early leadership” for Canada.

“Many promising Canadian companies that have great potential to generate future economic and export growth in other sectors still struggle to obtain the financing they need,” it added.

Cleantech enterprise firms often face resistance to change from potential customers, and therefore, hesitancy from venture firms. As Hall discovered, venture capital companies will sometimes set unpalatable conditions. Increasingly, however, the startups can shop for better deals.

They do need to demonstrate a sound business plan with customers lined up, Hall says. “As long I have a contract, the banks will give me money. It’s that easy now.”

Investors are clearly perceiving a fundamental shift in economic opportunity that favours the cleantech sector. And that adds a powerful stimulant to the mix. “This has been a slow-moving crisis but its impacts are now showing up more rapidly,” Caputo says. “But there is an opportunity now to bring a lot of technology and a lot of capital to bear that will make a difference.”

With major investors turning their attention to climate-friendly solutions, the time is ripe for cleantech firms to get the capital they need to scale up.

Shawn McCarthy writes about technology for MaRS. Torstar, the parent company of the Toronto Star, has partnered with MaRS to highlight innovation in Canadian companies.

Disclaimer This content was produced as part of a partnership and therefore it may not meet the standards of impartial or independent journalism.

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Toronto index set for biggest weekly drop since early December

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Canada’s main stock index fell on Friday as weaker crude oil prices weighed on energy stocks, putting the benchmark index on course for its biggest weekly drop since early December.

At 9:35 a.m. ET (14:35 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 141.11 points, or 0.67%, at 20,917.07. It hit a more than two-week low in the previous session.

The index has lost 2.4% so far this week, hurt by higher bond yields as expectations build that central banks will hike interest rates over the coming months to tame unruly inflation.

The healthcare and technology sectors have dominated the weekly losses, dropping 7.4% and 4.5%, respectively.

On Friday, the energy sector led the declines with a fall of 1.9% as an unexpected rise in U.S. crude and fuel inventories profit-booking pressured crude oil prices.[O/R]

The financials sector slipped 0.8%, while the industrials sector fell 0.5%.

The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 0.4% on weaker copper prices. [MET/L]

On the economic front, data showed Canadian retail sales rose 0.7% to C$58.08 billion ($46.40 billion) in November on higher sales at gasoline stations, and building materials and gardening equipment and supplies dealers.

“Canadian retail sales for November grew less than expected, while new house price inflation plateaued at a high level, another sign of stagflation in the North American economy,” said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management.

HIGHLIGHTS

The TSX posted one new 52-week highs and 10 new lows.

Across all Canadian issues there were two new 52-week highs and 55 new lows, with total volume of 32.05 million shares.

 

(Reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

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CAPP expects oil and gas investment to rise 22 per cent this year to $32.8 billion – Energeticcity.ca

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But CAPP president Tim McMillan pointed out that in spite of the fact that oil prices are at seven-year highs and companies are recording record cash flows, capital investment remains well below what it was during the industry’s boom years. In 2014, for example, capital investment in the Canadian oilpatch hit an all-time record high of $81 billion, capturing 10 per cent of total global upstream natural gas and oil investment.

“Today we’re at $32 billion, and we’re only capturing about six per cent of global investment,” McMillan said. “We’ve lost ground to other oil and gas producers, which I think is problematic for a lot of reasons . . . and it leaves billions of dollars of investment that is going somewhere else, and not to Canada.”

Investment in conventional oil and natural gas is forecast at $21.2 billion in 2022, according to CAPP, while growth in oilsands investment is expected to increase 33 per cent to $11.6 billion this year.

Alberta is expected to lead all provinces in overall oil and gas capital spending, with upstream investment expected to increase 24 per cent to $24.5 billion in 2022. Over 80 per cent of the industry’s new capital spending this year will be focused in Alberta, representing an additional $4.8 billion of investment into the province compared with 2021, according to CAPP. 

While the 2022 forecast numbers are good news for the Canadian economy, McMillan said, it’s a problem that companies aren’t willing to invest in this country’s industry at the level they once did. 

He said investors have been put off by Canada’s record of cancelled pipeline projects, regulatory hurdles and negative government policy signals, and many now see Canada as a “difficult place to invest.”

However, Rory Johnston, managing director and market economist at Toronto-based Price Street Inc., said laying the decline in the industry’s capital spending at the feet of the federal government is overly simplistic.

He added while current “rip-roaring, amazing” cash flows and a period of sustained high oil prices will certainly give some producers the appetite to invest this year, Johnston said, it will likely be on a project-by-project basis and certainly on a smaller scale than the major oilsands expansions of a decade ago.

“You have global macro trends across the entire industry that have begun to favour smaller, fast-cycle investment projects — and most oilsands projects are literally the polar opposite of that,” he said.

One reason capital spending isn’t likely to return to boom time levels is because companies have become much more cost-efficient after surviving a string of lean years. And that’s not a bad thing, Johnston said.

“The decade of capex boom out west was tremendously beneficial for Canada and Albertans, but it also caused tremendous cost inflation,” he said.

“While what we’re seeing right now is not as construction-heavy and not as employment-heavy —and those are two very, very large downsides — the upside is that you’re much more competitive in a much more competitive oil market,” Johnston said.

In a report released this week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) hiked its oil demand growth forecast for the coming year by 200,000 barrels a day, to 3.3 million barrels a day. 

According to the IEA, global oil demand will exceed pre-pandemic levels this year due to growing COVID-19 immunization rates and the fact that the new Omicron variant hasn’t proved severe enough to force a return to strict lockdown measures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2022.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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Cash-flow investing isn't just a strategy for your grandparents – Financial Post

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Cash-flow investing is increasingly attractive during times of increased market volatility

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The outlook on the Omnicron variant of COVID-19 on global markets is changing by the minute, but I am reminded of a tried-and-true approach that can provide investors with some peace of mind during uncertain market conditions: focusing on the value quality that cash flow adds as opposed to movements in the asset price.

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Cash-flow investing, in basic terms, means purchasing an asset that provides income at regular intervals versus one solely based on price appreciation. Whether it is monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, etc., you will receive regular cash distributions that can be reinvested or used to finance your lifestyle.

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Considered a relatively conservative approach to investing, acquiring cash-flow-producing assets can be attractive for a number of reasons.

First, the asset will provide value on a regular basis regardless of its current market price. A temporary drop in value can be viewed as positive for cash-flow investors because they can now use the distribution amount to buy more of the asset at a distressed price, hence increasing their future cash-flow amount.

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Secondly, dividends or proceeds from cash-flow investments can be used to fund lifestyle expenses in retirement without eating into your overall pot of capital.

This shift in focus from market price to value can help diversify investment portfolios and mitigate the impact of public market uncertainty. Ultimately, cash-flow investments provide flexibility to rebalance, protection against market volatility, and peace of mind that you’re earning sustainable income with less concern about the economic impact of current events.

For example, in February 2020, we switched our monthly cash-flow-producing assets from reinvest to pay out for many clients when public equity markets sharply reacted to COVID-19 uncertainty. This free cash flow allowed us to purchase dividend-paying equities at a large discount for the ensuing six months until they reached their pre-pandemic valuations.

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Dividend-paying equities are just one of several types of cash-flow investments.

Real estate : Cash flow is the result of proceeds from rent collected. The value of the property will likely appreciate over the long term, but the cash flow produced monthly or annually is relatively consistent. The goal here is for the income from the property to cover all your costs on the property and provide a steady profit.

Investing in a real estate fund can be an excellent source of passive income and provide steady long-term returns. Real estate funds can have a similar return to individual property ownership without the added stress of personally maintaining the property.

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Mortgage funds : Cash flow comes from regular loan interest repayments over the term of the loan. Loans are often secured by real property with a varying loan-to-value ratio.

Private assets : Assets such as private debt offer higher-yielding returns with significantly lower volatility than publicly traded securities. By their nature, private assets are not subject to the same whims of the crowd that the public markets are.

Dividend-paying stocks : Arguably the most volatile cash-flow-producing investment available to the average retail investor. The income from dividend-paying stocks can be less consistent than other cash-flow-generating assets. Also, your investment value can fluctuate depending on market events and the company’s performance. One strategy for mitigating some of the volatility is to invest in a fund focusing on long-term growth in a large number of dividend-paying stocks.

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Bonds or bond funds : Bonds, essentially the debt of companies or governments, can provide relatively low returns, but are generally viewed as safe investments depending on their rating. Again, a way to protect your bond investment and still see regular cash flow is to invest in a bond fund that provides diversification across the bond market.

As a whole, cash-flow investing helps protect investors in volatile markets while also taking advantage of temporary market troughs. This is one strategy I would recommend to all investors regardless of portfolio size. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past number of years, there’s never a wrong time to start.

James McCarthy, CIM, is a senior wealth associate/client relationship manager at Nicola Wealth. This article should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. All investments contain risk and may gain or lose value. Nicola Wealth is registered as a portfolio manager, exempt market dealer and investment fund manager with the required provincial securities commissions.

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