“The Key to the Middle East’s Oil Future” (Green Chip)

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, January 13, 2010

This ad comes in from the folks at Green Chip International, teasing us into spasms of stock-lust with the notion of a company that can profit from the next moves of the Middle East “Drug Cartel.”

Indeed, that’s the notion they use to construct their ad — that the US is addicted to oil, and that the “cartel” that has controlled that oil (the Middle East) is making its next move to control green energy because it knows the oil is running out.

Here’s how they pitch it:

“History’s Biggest Drug Cartel is Racing to Build the Perfect City

“Their 40-year-long ‘drug deal’ has brought in more than $1.3 trillion.

“But while it’s about to come to an explosive end, this ‘drug cartel’s’ next move promises to be even bigger.

“And it could —100% legally — make you a fortune.”

I’ll spare you the pages of exposition about the Middle East, their oil fortunes, the peak oil fears, and the depletion of the major reserves in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The point is, they think there’s a “revenge trade” for those who want to profit from Middle Eastern alternative energy spending …

“The powers who control a large chunk of the world’s oil supply are … now investing billions of dollars worth of oil profits into building the next energy monopoly — only this time in the form of renewable energy. They’ve already launched this venture in a big way by pouring $22 billion into what will become the world’s first-ever carbon-neutral city!”

… and …

“Even more importantly — we’ve also discovered a company perfectly positioned to take full advantage of a blockbuster $22 billion investment that almost no one in the mainstream press has noticed.”

OK, so the $22 billion investment is the move to build Masdar, a “green city” being developed in the UAE as a test market for green technologies and a spur toward regional manufacturing of green technology stuff, like photovoltaic cells (this is, after all, a part of the world where 99% of the days bring abundant sunshine).

Here’s how the Green Chippers describe it:

“Abu Dhabi has also invested $22 billion to build the world’s first entirely renewably powered city: Masdar.

“Masdar City will host 50,000 people by 2016 who will live and work without cars or fossil fuels.

“And Abu Dhabi’s leaders aren’t kidding around — not only have they set forth on an aggressive timeline and earmarked $22 billion for investment… they’ve even enlisted the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a partner in this project.

“The goal for the project is clear: they’re building a city that uses water and fuel with the smallest footprint possible.

“There will be NO automobile traffic in Masdar; only public transportation will be permitted… and the city’s perimeter wall will help keep out extreme desert winds and high temperatures, allowing for cool temperatures to prevail throughout the city.”

So that’s the background — and they believe that this big investment in Masdar will spur big sales for one specific company.

But which company? Well, unless you want to go subscribe to Green Chip International (“on sale” for $249/year), read on as we sort through the clues and percolate the Thinkolator …

And here’s the bit where they throw a few clues our way:

“The amount of green building that’s taking place as part of the Masdar project alone is off the charts.

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“So for a supplier to step into that territory — a supplier that carries a distinct competitive advantage in its field — is a huge development. There’s enough potential work from the Masdar project alone to completely alter the fortunes of a small company… and there are many more projects — each worth billions — on the way in the Middle East…

“* It’s a company that has emerged as a major player in the green building trend because of its unique brand of solar-powered glass products.

“* According to one independent research firm, this company enjoys ‘an important competitive advantage’ and is ‘well placed to develop products for emerging market segments in BIPV (Building-Integrated Photovoltaic Products).’

“* The company plodded along for awhile as an interesting (but somewhat forgettable) provider of bulletproof glass to governments. It later transformed itself into the largest manufacturer of solar glass in its country. But after realizing its home country had little appetite for its product, it soon began exporting over 70% of its production… and in the process gaining valuable experience as a serious exporter.

“Now here’s where things get interesting…

“Just last year, this company cut a deal with the first-ever eco-friendly distributor in the United Arab Emirates.

“This agreement instantly transformed the company into a major player in the Middle East — and it will allow the company an opportunity to experience rapid-fire growth. (In fact, the company doubled the number of production lines and bought additional land for expansion last year in response to its growth.)”

So … who is it? Well, we didn’t get a lot of specifics, but it’s enough for the Thinkolator to spit out an answer with a pretty good degree of confidence … this looks to be …

Romag Holdings

Now, unfortunately Romag is not easily bought by US investors — it is listed on the AIM in London at ticker ROM, so if you can trade internationally you can look into shares there if you like. There is no active pink sheet symbol at the moment as far as I can tell, though there is a vestigial one at ROMGF that might work for some brokers (mine refused to recognize it).

Which gives some credence to the fact that I might be wrong about this one — but it is the best match for the clues that I can locate. Romag is indeed an old manufacturer of bulletproof glass, and they have differentiated out into glass for solar applications, including glass with integrated photovoltaics — they sell this stuff under the PowerGlaz name, and perhaps these products do offer them some competitive advantage, I really don’t know enough to be sure.

And, to continue the matching of the clues, they did sign a deal with a eco-friendly distributor in the Middle East, though it was almost two years ago — the distribution deal was (and is, I suppose) with Gulf International Trading Group.

Romag traded up over 200 pence in 2007 and early 2008, when solar energy was the hottest investment idea going, and fell back pretty hard more recently, though the last month or so has seen a nice upslope in their stock chart. The results for 2009 were quite weak, they had to scrap the meager dividend and investment in renewable energy projects and construction in general was quite tepid for last year (Romag’s revenue was down 41 percent, including a 55% cut in their core PowerGlaz product sales, profit was down to 1.5p from 5.1p in 2008), but I’m sure there are many folks who see an upturn coming with the improved global economy. In their last earnings release they put their optimism thus:

“Looking forward, we are seeing increasingly positive signs that both the PV and construction markets are starting to show signs of recovery. During the final quarter of 2009 and even more so since the year end, we have experienced an increase in the number of identified opportunities and have witnessed significant price stabilisation in the PV markets. The new products developed by Romag throughout the year and the agreements with Kingspan and British Gas announced today lead the directors to believe that Romag is well-positioned to take advantage of the market recovery in 2010 and beyond.”

And while Romag was a primarily international company in terms of sales a year ago, it’s now largely domestic — in 2009, their depressed year (fiscal year end is September), their home market of the UK accounted for 53% of total sales (in 2008 it was 19% of sales). If this is indeed the match for the teaser, as I suspect, then the Middle East part remains very much prospective — they noted in their last report that “During the course of the year the group has received its first, albeit small, orders from the Middle East.” So that may be a growth driver, but Masdar is not their city of gold just yet.

More interesting, perhaps, are their new electric vehicle charging products — they’ve developed a carport canopy product that essentially covers your car and charges it, I have no idea how efficient it is but it&#