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It’s Official! Oil And Gas Giant Total Now Owns $1.3 Billion Controlling Stake In SunPower

June 15th, 2011 06:48 admin View Comments

Total, the fossil fuels giant, just gave itself a renewable energy makeover by finishing up its $1.3 billion purchase of a majority stake in SunPower, the San Jose, Calif.-based designer and manufacturer of solar panels and systems.

SunPower sells its solar technology and services to customers of about any size, including at the residential, business, government and utility level.

Let’s put the scope of the Total-SunPower deal in perspective. According to research by the Cleantech Group and Deloitte, for all of 2010, venture investments in cleantech companies of any stripe worldwide totaled $7.7 billion across 715 deals, and the solar segment attracted 24 percent of those dollars. Worldwide venture investments in solar companies for 2010 totaled $1.83 billion across 117 deals. In 2009, venture investments in solar companies totaled $1.34 billion.

[Ed's note: Cleantech VC money has never looked so Monopoly! The traditional oil and gas purse, on the other hand, looks bottomless.]

In a press statement about the SunPower acquisition, Total touched on its previous involvement in solar:

“Through its joint venture affiliates Tenesol and Photovoltech, Total has built expertise along the photovoltaic solar power chain to make this technology more reliable, efficient and competitive. Tenesol is a French solar panel manufacturer with an industrial footprint in Toulouse (France) and Cape Town (South Africa). Total is also a large minority shareholder in [U.S.-based solar technology businesses] Konarka and AE Polysilicon.”

The company is expected by industry insiders to reorganize its entire business, globally, around its latest acquisition.

With traditional energy companies like Total buying up solar at this level, and huge amounts of competition from Chinese solar manufacturers and developers, do U.S. startups and newly public companies in solar have a chance to survive without ceding control?

Cleantech Group chief executive Shareez Haji believes,

“We will see a number of winners in solar. In the U.S., category leaders like Brightsource and MiaSole will thrive as independent companies, while a number of others will struggle on their own and be acquired.

I do not see the SunPower acquisition as a sign of weakness, at all. They sold for a big premium and gained access to a huge new balance sheet, including a $1 billion debt facility that Total did through the equity deal.”

Making the case that worldwide demand will remain strong enough to support new entrants in solar (yes, even American ones) a report today from the International Energy Association (IEA) forecasts that “by 2050, solar photovoltaics will provide 11 percent of global electricity production.” That amount of solar power represents a potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by about 2.3 gigatons, equivalent to reducing emissions from electricity use from 253 million homes per year, nearly the combined populations of Russia and Japan the report said.

Source: It’s Official! Oil And Gas Giant Total Now Owns $1.3 Billion Controlling Stake In SunPower

Visa Acquires Mobile Financial Services Company Fundamo For $110M In Cash

June 9th, 2011 06:27 admin View Comments

Visa this morning announced that it has agreed to acquire Fundamo, a specialist mobile financial services provider to network operators and financial institutions in developing economies, for $110 million in cash.

In a separate announcement, the giant payments technology company said it has entered into a new, long-term commercial agreement with Monitise, a provider of mobile money solutions for financial institutions in more developed regions.

Here’s how the duo of agreements was pitched:

The combination of acquiring Fundamo and expanding the relationship with Monitise will enable Visa to deliver best-in-class mobile financial services and payments capabilities to consumers across the full spectrum of uses, geographies and mobile environments from basic services on simple handsets to more advanced services for smart phone owners.

Fundamo’s platform enables the delivery of mobile financial services to unbanked and under-banked consumers around the world, including person-to-person payments, airtime top-up, bill payment and branchless banking services.

The combined Visa Fundamo platform will add enhanced functionality and new services to existing mobile financial services subscribers for globally accepted payments solutions.

Privately-held, Cape Town, South Africa-based Fundamo says it boasts more than 50 active mobile financial services deployments across more than 40 countries, including 27 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Fundamo’s deployments currently have a base of more than five million registered subscribers and the potential to reach more than 180 million consumers with mobile financial services.

Fundamo CEO Hannes van Rensburg and the executive team will continue to manage current and future Fundamo implementations as members of Visa’s mobile product organization.

Monitise and Visa, meanwhile, say they will debut a mobile banking solution in the U.S. for clients of Visa DPS, the company’s debit and prepaid processing platform.

Source: Visa Acquires Mobile Financial Services Company Fundamo For $110M In Cash

Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

April 8th, 2011 04:53 admin View Comments

Google has announced that it will be launching a startup incubator in Cape Town, South Africa, called Umbono. The incubator aims to support the local tech ecosystem in South Africa by offering local startups access to seed capital, Google mentorship, and angel investors.

Umbono will focus on web and mobile-based startups building solutions to local problems, which also have regional appeal, in an effort to help them “transform their ideas into companies”, according to Google SA country manager Luke Mckend. Fittingly, “umbono” happens to be the very Zulu word for “vision” or “idea”.

The South African incubator will be structured as a 6-month program, in which 5 startups chosen by Umbono’s panel of angel investors and Google representatives will receive a seed investment of $25K to $50K. The teams will also have access to Umbono’s free office space, bandwidth, and a mentorship network of Google experts, ready to advise the startups on issues from “product design and commercialization to legal incorporation and valuation”, Google said of Umbono in its announcement.

Local bandwidth is expensive in Cape Town — so this will likely be very attractive to young tech startups in South Africa. Not to mention the added bonus of $25K.

Umbono’s home city of Cape Town, located on the southwestern shore of South Africa, has for years been attempting to position itself as a hub of innovation and technology in subsaharan Africa. The Cape IT Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing information and communications technology in South Africa, has been lobbying Google (and others) to locate their incubators in Cape Town for some time.

Along with Cape IT, Cape Town is home to Silicon Cape, a similar initiative aimed at fostering tech entrepreneurship in South Africa, as well as veteran incubators, like the highly-regarded, 10-year-old Bandwidth Barn.

South Africa has also produced its fair share of successful (and well-funded) startups, like Yola, a website creator that has raised $25 million, MXit, an instant messaging app with over 27 million subscribers, and Twangoo, Twangoo, a group buying club, which was acquired by Groupon earlier this year — to name a few. And now the country’s startup ecosystem adds another notch to its belt by luring Google’s business development talent to its shores.

When I asked Umbono spokeswoman Julie Taylor about why Google chose South Africa and whether or not it has plans for incubators elsewhere in Africa, she told me that, at this point, Umbono is a pilot project. The incubator will test the African waters, and if the model proves to be viable — and beneficial –Google will look to expand into other emerging markets.

“South Africa is recognized as one of the innovation leaders on the continent, particularly with tech startups,” she said, “so we are enthusiastic about the possibilities here”.

Source: Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

Google has announced that it will be launching a startup incubator in Cape Town, South Africa, called Umbono. The incubator aims to support the local tech ecosystem in South Africa by offering local startups access to seed capital, Google mentorship, and angel investors.

Umbono will focus on web and mobile-based startups building solutions to local problems, which also have regional appeal, in an effort to help them “transform their ideas into companies”, according to Google SA country manager Luke Mckend. Fittingly, “umbono” happens to be the very Zulu word for “vision” or “idea”.

The South African incubator will be structured as a 6-month program, in which 5 startups chosen by Umbono’s panel of angel investors and Google representatives will receive a seed investment of $25K to $50K. The teams will also have access to Umbono’s free office space, bandwidth, and a mentorship network of Google experts, ready to advise the startups on issues from “product design and commercialization to legal incorporation and valuation”, Google said of Umbono in its announcement.

Local bandwidth is expensive in Cape Town — so this will likely be very attractive to young tech startups in South Africa. Not to mention the added bonus of $25K.

Umbono’s home city of Cape Town, located on the southwestern shore of South Africa, has for years been attempting to position itself as a hub of innovation and technology in subsaharan Africa. The Cape IT Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing information and communications technology in South Africa, has been lobbying Google (and others) to locate their incubators in Cape Town for some time.

Along with Cape IT, Cape Town is home to Silicon Cape, a similar initiative aimed at fostering tech entrepreneurship in South Africa, as well as veteran incubators, like the highly-regarded, 10-year-old Bandwidth Barn.

South Africa has also produced its fair share of successful (and well-funded) startups, like Yola, a website creator that has raised $25 million, MXit, an instant messaging app with over 27 million subscribers, and Twangoo, Twangoo, a group buying club, which was acquired by Groupon earlier this year — to name a few. And now the country’s startup ecosystem adds another notch to its belt by luring Google’s business development talent to its shores.

When I asked Umbono spokeswoman Julie Taylor about why Google chose South Africa and whether or not it has plans for incubators elsewhere in Africa, she told me that, at this point, Umbono is a pilot project. The incubator will test the African waters, and if the model proves to be viable — and beneficial –Google will look to expand into other emerging markets.

“South Africa is recognized as one of the innovation leaders on the continent, particularly with tech startups,” she said, “so we are enthusiastic about the possibilities here”.

Source: Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

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