domingo, mayo 27, 2007

CALIFORNIA: Will An Oil Mogul See Green?

Even old-school oilmen are cashing in on the frenzy for all things green. Former wildcatter T. Boone Pickens hopes to hit a gusher of money when his alternative fuels company, Clean Energy Fuels, begins trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange this week under the ticker symbol CLNE. The Seal Beach, Calif.-based company hopes to raise up to $340 million.

About half of that sum will go directly to existing shareholders, who will sell about 10 million shares at $13 to $17 a piece. The rest of the offering, underwritten by WR Hambrecht, Simmons & Company International, Susquehanna Financial Group and National Bank Financial, will help the company build out its business--fueling vehicles that run on natural gas.

Of course, while Clean Energy's fuel is (relatively) green, there's no guarantee shareholders will see the same. In the first three months of this year, Clean Energy reported a net loss of $870,000 on sales of $28.2 million; a year earlier it lost $3 million on sales of $21 million during the same time period.

The initial public offering marks a milestone for Pickens, who made his reputation as an oilman and takeover artist. Pickens shot to fame in the 1980s by engineering a series of runs on energy companies. More recently, however, the billionaire has been talking about "peak oil"--the notion that the supply of oil is running out--and touting alternatives such as natural gas.

Pickens bet on the trend in 1997, when he formed Pickens Fuel to offer natural gas as an alternative for fueling vehicles. Now known as Clean Energy Fuels, the company runs fueling stations for government and commercial customers fueling up their fleets of vehicles on cheap natural gas.

The move is also proof that you don't have to be liberal to be green. As a major financial backer of Republican politicians--including U.S. President George Bush--the Oklahoma-born billionaire remains outside the Hollywood-Al Gore axis of celebrity environmental activists.

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