Wiese’s sunny disposition

Christo Wiese - [http://www.financialmail.co.za/incoming/2014/12/17/christo-wiese-xxx/ALTERNATES/crop_680x417/Christo+Wiese+xxx]

RETAIL tycoon Christo Wiese is an adventurous investor with wide ranging investment interests. But his latest tilt at alternative energy is most surprising – particularly since this unexpected deal was facilitated through a company better known for its acumen in specialised financial services.

Last month Mettle Solar, part of retailer Christo Wiese’s Tradehold property group, acquired a 50% stake in Sustainable Power Solutions (SPS,) an engineering and construction firm that specialises in the design, installation and operation of solar photovoltaic (PV) roof and ground-mounted systems.

The price paid by Mettle – which has carved a niche for itself in specialised financial services over thepast 20 years – was not disclosed.

A press statement from Tradehold, however, noted that SPS was currently involved in the installation of more than 4,000 roof-mounted solar panels (1,2MWp) in the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. This is one of the largest solar projects in the country.

The company also recently successfully installed and commissioned a 500kWp ground-mounted solar system on the island of St Helena, which is reducing the island’s dependence on diesel fuel.

Mettle Solar MD François van Themaat said the transaction was the outcome of a close working relationship with SPS, which has undertaken the design and installation of a number of Mettle Solar’s major grid-connected PV contracts.

“We are very pleased to have acquired a stake in one of South Africa’s leading rooftop solar companies. This closer relationship with SPS will allow Mettle to roll out rooftop solar projects moreefficiently and at very competitive prices.”

SPS CEO Axel Scholle, who has overseen the construction of over 7MWp of roof- and ground-mounted projects to date, has welcomed the partnership with Mettle Solar.

“Having a company such as Mettle Solar on board will strengthen our ability to harness the many opportunities in the area of solar power generation at a time when conventional generation is becoming increasingly more costly.”

Scholle expects that solar – coupled with storage – will alter the electricity generating and distribution industry across the continent in the next decade.

Cape Town-based Mettle Solar was only established in 2014 to take advantage of the burgeoning demand for alternative energy sources … and then solar energy in the commercial environment.

While the company designs, installs and maintains the solar PV systems (which range in size from 100kWp to 3MWp,) there is still a financial connection with Mettle offering clients financing options to fund installations.

Van Themaat said Mettle Solar currently operated in South Africa and Namibia, but was pursuingopportunities across Southern Africa.

He said Mettle Solar was engaged in five new projects – three in South Africa and two in Namibia. Most of these projects involve shopping centres – which is intriguing considering Wiese’s sprawling retail empire and Tradehold’s plans to develop shopping centres in Africa.

Both properties in Namibia form part of the Tradehold portfolio.