Hydrogenpro gets a new major owner – E24

Hydrogenpro gets a new major owner – E24

Austrian Andritz has become the second largest owner of Hydrogenpro, at a time of disagreement between two other major owners. – Calmness in the company is something we all want, says Jarl Dragvik, CEO of Hydrogenpro.

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Hydrogenpro supplies electrolyzers, which separate hydrogen from water using electricity and can be a contributor to the green transition.

Now Austrian Andritz is investing approximately NOK 83 million in the company through a private placement. Vienna-based Andritz previously collaborated with Hydrogenpro in the delivery of electrolysis plants.

– Andritz has a lot of experience, Jarl Dragvik, CEO of Hydrogenpro, tells E24.

Following the issuance, Andritz will own 13.8% in Hydrogenpro. Because of the dilution, the company became the second-largest owner after founder Richard Espeseth, Dragvec says.

– Did Andritz say anything about whether they want to increase their ownership further, or whether they want to stay at 13.8 percent?

– You'll have to ask Andritz about that. “I assume they are investing capital in the company with a long-term perspective,” Dragvec says.

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We disagree about the direction

There has been controversy over the direction of Hydrogenpro. Majority owner Richard Espeseth recently called for an extraordinary general meeting and will propose a different board than the Electoral Commission proposed. Among other things, he is dissatisfied with the development in the stock price.

– There is a need for change in the company, Espeseth told E24 last week.

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– Chairman Terje Mikalsen, who is also among Hydrogenpro's largest owners, said the founder was struggling to relinquish leadership. He claimed that Espeseth wanted to take over the company himself, which Espeseth did not confirm.

The future direction of Hydrogenpro will be determined at a general meeting and extraordinary general meeting on April 23.

– Could Andritz's increasing ownership influence the outcome of the power struggle at the general meeting?

-Andritz expects and requests a seat on the board of directors. The selection committee will then come up with a revised recommendation as a result, Dragvec says.

Chairman and principal owner Terje Mikalsen will vote for Andritz candidate at the general meeting.

– Disturbances at the owner level

– How do these disturbances affect the work in the company?

– There are turmoil at the owner level, says CEO Jarl Dragvec.

He says that what is important for the company is to work according to the chosen strategy.

He believes the company has executed in line with the board's strategy of building a footprint in the US, strengthening the organization there, and building a partnership with Andritz in Europe.

– We showed in the fourth quarter that our business model works. We deliver to Mitsubishi's ACES project in the USA and to steel producer Salzgitter in Europe in cooperation with Andritz, he says.

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You want peace

Shop owner Espeseth said he wanted peace and quiet so he could build Hydrogenpro further.

-Peace of mind in a company is something we all want. This was one of the first things I focused on, as I arrived at an organization with a 30 percent employee turnover rate, Dragvec says.

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He says the company immediately surveyed employees after he took over as CEO last fall, to find out why there was such a high employee turnover.

– It turns out that many problems arose when you moved from being an entrepreneurial company to a listed company with completely different requirements for corporate governance. It takes a completely different kind of organization, Dragvec says.

We have drawn up a list of measures that we are working to implement, and we see that they are bearing fruit. In the last five months, we haven't had any layoffs, he says.

– It didn't go as fast as you thought

When Hydrogenpro was listed on the Merkur market in 2020, the price was over NOK 30, but at the beginning of 2024 it was at worst below NOK 10.

Dragvik points out that many green companies have seen a decline, including solar, wind and hydrogen.

– There was an expectation a few years ago that the hydrogen market would accelerate rapidly. “We see good growth and strong political support, but it is not going as fast as we thought two or three years ago,” Dragvec says.

– But if you look at similar companies, Hydrogenpro is among the lower downgrades. He says building a stock price takes time, and then management must focus on strategy.

The CEO believes that the turmoil surrounding Hydrogenpro's share price has been particularly at the owner level, and that this is something that has also been seen in other companies.

– One should not rule out that this along with the stock price is also linked to frequent management changes and board changes in the company, he says.

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Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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