Report and opinion by Mathew Carr
Octopus Energy’s takeover of rival Bulb already has plenty of controversy.
Now Corporate Watch, a research website that questions whether capitalism is working well, corrected a story about Octopus’s ownership, structure and links with the U.K. government, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
I’m not endorsing the story, but the Octopus-Bulb deal is potentially important because of its impact on the competitive landscape and it’s expected to take place on Dec. 20, even as Centrica and other big players in Britain’s energy industry are claiming Octopus is getting unfair help from the taxpayer. Here is the correction:
Here is the relevant section as it reads now (also see May 2022 statement below):
POLITICAL DONATIONS IN THE UK
In 2018 Octopus Investments Ltd donated £12,500 to the central Conservative party. Co-founder, Christopher Hulatt, donated a further £2,500 to the party’s local branch Hitchin & Harpenden (Hulatt’s home constituency) in 2019.
Hulatt’s donation was questioned after Open Democracy revealed Octopus Investments was selected to manage the HM Treasury-owned UK Infrastructure Bank’s new £100m “sustainable infrastructure fund”.
DOES THE COMPANY HAVE CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE GOVERNMENT?
Yes. As Octopus co-founder Christopher Hulatt put it: “I spend most of my time focusing on…maintaining strong relationships with the UK government and MPs”.
In October 2020, Rishi Sunak alongside Boris Johnson appear to have done PR for Octopus Energy, promoting the company in an official 10 Downing Street video at the Octopus Energy HQ. Between 2020-2022 Octopus had four meetings with former UK prime minister Boris Johnson. This included one solo meeting to discuss energy technology and sustainability in October 2020 as well as a further 125 meetings with ministers to discuss energy: retail, innovation, efficiency and security.
The Financial Times ran a story today saying the sale of nationalized Bulb may be in breach of EU state aid rules because Octopus owns a company in Northern Ireland that manufactures heat pumps.
The subsidy to Octopus could affect rival suppliers that trade with the EU, it said.
The deal could create “the first significant showdown” between the EU and the UK since Brexit, it said.
CarrZee: The risks to the taxpayer of the Octopus-Bulb deal are not transparent.
I’m in favor of more competitive energy markets in Britain and I call for a parliamentary debate on this deal and for full disclosure of terms and risks facing the taxpayer.
Transparency is crucial. I already last month called for regulatory investigations.
Source doc from May 2022
UK Infrastructure Bank to support multi-million-pound fund with Octopus Investments to boost investment in green sectors critical to the UK’s net zero ambitions
The UK Infrastructure Bank has today announced it will be the cornerstone investor into a new fund to provide scale-up capital for the next generation of infrastructure projects across the UK.
The Bank has worked with Octopus Investments to create the fund, which will support new infrastructure projects vital to helping the UK meet its net-zero targets.
The Octopus Sustainable Infrastructure Fund, ‘OSIF,’ will provide growth capital to companies looking to roll out and support sustainable infrastructure projects within the Bank’s mandated priority sectors.
The Bank will invest up to £100m on a match-funding basis, unlocking between £100m to £300m of private capital.
The fund will invest in the companies developing and rolling out sustainable infrastructure projects in emerging sectors for whom mainstream debt financing is not yet available. Projects could, for example include battery storage and electric vehicle charging.
CEO of the UK Infrastructure Bank, John Flint said:
“The UK Infrastructure Bank was set up to solve the most important problems we face today, in partnership. This investment, which is fully aligned with our mandate, could unlock over £100m of private funding into new green industries and help people across the UK to benefit from innovation in their local area. We are happy to work alongside Octopus Investments to help innovative green projects access the finance they need.
“This is the sixth deal for the Bank as we approach the end of our first year, and we are developing our approach to how we can best complement the market. We’re just getting started, and I look forward to seeing the impact of this fund, and our other investments as we grow.”
Robert Skinner, Head of Alternative Investments, Octopus Investments said:
“The scale of the UK’s net zero ambitions will require billions of pounds of investment. Some of that money needs to be channelled towards scaling up the emerging infrastructure technologies, companies and assets across critical sectors, such as digital infrastructure like small cells and green data centres, battery storage, electric vehicle charging and waste management. These are the sectors will form the foundations of our sustainable economy and energy system in the years to come.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have the support of the UK Infrastructure Bank in seeking to unlock this much-needed funding. Its commitment is an important starting gun. There is now a tremendous opportunity for institutional investors to align their capital with the UK’s net zero goals, supporting job creation, powering economic growth, and bringing the next generation of infrastructure to every corner of the country, while generating the necessary financial returns.”
The UK Infrastructure Bank opened for business in June 2021 to tackle climate change and boost growth across the United Kingdom. The Bank has now announced six deals with a range of investments in line with its mandate, strategic objectives, and investment principles, which can be found on the UK Infrastructure Bank website.
These include digital infrastructure in Northern Ireland through Fibrus, and England through Gigaclear, as well as supporting subsidy-free solar power production in England and Wales through its deal with NextEnergy.
It has also supported the UK wind sector, through a loan to Tees Valley Combined Authority via its lending function and financed green bus routes with the West Midlands Combined Authority.
Octopus is an investment manager which specialises in sustainable investments with over £12.5bn of funds under management. It was founded in 2000 and as a certified B Corporation it operates at the highest standard of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
19 May 2022
UK Infrastructure Bank
- The UK Infrastructure Bank was announced as part of the Government’s National Infrastructure Strategy in 2020 and launched in June 2021. The Bank’s objectives are to help tackle climate change and to support regional and local economic growth. In January 2022 it published a discussion paper which set out early thinking as the Bank develops its Strategic Plan, to be published June 2022. More detail is available in the UK Infrastructure Bank Policy Design Document and the Bank’s Framework Document both of which are on our website.
- The Bank is operationally independent from Government -projects are assessed by the Bank and approved through an Investment Committee.
About Octopus Group
- Octopus is a group of businesses investing in the people, ideas and industries that will help to change the world. Today we manage more than £12.5* billion on behalf of retail and over 100 institutional investors including several of UK’S largest pension funds. We are a specialist investor in real assets, private credit and high-growth small businesses. We are a certified B Corp, meaning we care as much about the impact of our investments as the returns they generate.
- Octopus Energy, Octopus Giving, Octopus Investments, Octopus Moneycoach, Octopus Renewables, Octopus Real Estate, Octopus Ventures, Octopus Wealth and Seccl Technology are all part of Octopus Group. Visit octopusgroup.com
*Includes undrawn commitments, funds under advisory mandates, funds monitored and the Octopus Cash service as of 31st March 2022.
Octopus Sustainable Infrastructure Fund (OSIF)
- The UK Infrastructure Bank will invest up to £100m on a match-funding basis, including £10m upfront invest in seed assets. The transaction includes £10m of private capital from Octopus Investments directly.
- OSIF has been designed to reflect the UKIB multi-sector mandate. The investment is consistent with the Bank’s Strategic Objectives and Investment Principles as set out in our Framework document.
OSIF is aligned with both of the UK Infrastructure Bank’s core objectives:
- Drive regional and local economic growth: through investing in digital infrastructure such as the development of regional data centres.
- Help tackle climate change: through investments in technologies to enable the transition to a low-carbon energy generation system, such as battery storage; technologies that support our future mobility, such as electric vehicle adoption; and technologies that contribute to a circular economy.
This fund will invest growth capital into companies looking to support and build infrastructure in the UK across multiple sectors that are closely aligned with the Bank’s mandate. It will not invest in core infrastructure assets, such as wind and solar farms.
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