After less than two months on the ASX, what a curious little company Wind Hydrogen Ltd is proving to be, full of sound and green promises, but looking more speculative by the day, and none too rewarding thus far for the investors talked into punting $12 million on the IPO.

The shares issued at 20 cents now trade at 14.5 cents and little wonder – in quick order the company is parting way with its managing director “by mutual agreement”, the CFO and company secretary departed not long before the float and the chairman-for-a-minute, one Neville Wran, is quitting too.

Nifty only took on the chairmanship on 1 May, perhaps enticed onto the board by his old mate and fellow director Albert Wong. They also both sit on the boards of Tambour Capital Pty Ltd and Bligh Street Capital Partners Pty Ltd. Tambour received 1.5 million Wind Hydrogen shares at 5 cents each for underwriting the issue.

It helps to have a big name or two when getting a speculative green technology company away and Neville Wran remains a big name. What did the SMH write about when reporting the IPO? The fact that Nifty was the chairman, of course.

But Nifty is blowing Wind Hydrogen at the AGM at the end of this month – a mere seven months into the job. Shareholders might wonder if they’ve been well served by such a short stint in the chairman’s role, or whether there is more going on than meets the eye at this would-be wind farm mob. (There’s meant to be a twist with Wind Hydrogen as it’s supposed to have technology that will convert some of the spare off-peak wind into hydrogen which can produce electricity during peak periods, but so far it its commercially unproven.)

The biggest mystery is why Wind Hydrogen is an Australian company at all. It’s new CEO is based in the UK, it’s main project is in the UK, it only has one project in Australia, it’s intellectual property is held in the UK and the founder/inventor/key shareholder is, you guessed it, based in the UK.

The answer might lie in the nature and abode of the soon-to-be-ex CEO, Richard Pritchard who used to sell shares at Macquarie Bank. You might think Wind Hydrogen is only listed here because Pritchard knew how to raise money in this hot market.

Getting a float away for something as unproven as Wind Hydrogen is one thing, but actually making it work is another.

Unkind souls might think Nifty has just taken the money and run, or that he didn’t realise what he had got himself into and quickly wanted out. Others might form the opinion that he found himself on a rather difficult board and that removing the CEO required his own departure, particularly as Richard Pritchard is being replaced as a director by his UK-based brother Declan, the inventor with the idea for the firm.

Whatever the case, shareholders who followed the big name in might well wonder what else they could have done with their money. Plenty.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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