Baltimore aims for bright green growth from dot.com ashes

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The Independent Online

Baltimore Technologies, the former internet star which became one the most spectacular casualties of the dot.com collapse, is re-inventing itself as a green energy business in the teeth of fierce opposition from its biggest shareholder.

Baltimore Technologies, the former internet star which became one the most spectacular casualties of the dot.com collapse, is re-inventing itself as a green energy business in the teeth of fierce opposition from its biggest shareholder.

The company, which is now nothing more than a cash shell, yesterday hired a new board and a new chief executive, and announced that henceforth it planned to make a living by exploiting the growing demand for renewable energy.

Baltimore's chairman, Bijan Khezri, said he planed to target mid-sized industrial and commercial companies occupying multiple sites, such as smaller supermarket chains, by offering to manage their energy requirements. It also intends to begin generating renewable energy itself on a small scale.

However, the Bermuda-based Acquisitor Group, Baltimore's largest shareholder with a stake of just under 13 per cent, immediately denounced the plan. "This has hardened our resolve to remove Mr Khezri and his cronies before they remove what remaining value exists in the company," it said.

The change of strategy will require a change of name. Shareholders will be invited to vote on both at an extraordinary meeting pencilled in for 5 May. Baltimore also intends to use a small portion of its £25m cash pile to acquire an existing green energy management company, so providing it with a ready-made customer base.

Baltimore began life as a supplier of internet encryption software and at the height of the dot.com boom had a market capitalisation of £5.5bn. At last night's closing share price of 41p, down 9 per cent, it is worth just £22m.

The new strategy is the result of a six-month review during which time Baltimore looked at everything from plumbing and car washes to becoming a media player.

Mr Khezri will remain as non-executive chairman but he has brought in David Weaver, the managing director of BP's gas, power and renewables business, as chief executive and Alfredo Goyanes, the former head of European energy research at Lazards, as finance director.

Among the new batch of non-executives recruited to the Baltimore board are the former chief executive of ITV, Richard Eyre, and John Uttley, the former finance director of National Grid, who embarrassed his fellow electricity industry executives by donating his share option profits to charity. Mr Uttley will chair the audit committee.

Mr Khezri said green energy had the attributes Baltimore was looking for - a growth market, good cash flow and scope for innovation.

Mr Weaver, who began his career with the Central Electricity Board and has been involved with the utilities sector ever since, said: "We could start from scratch building a customer base but it would be time consuming. An acquisition will give us immediate cash flow and a base to grow from."

The Government has set a target of generating 15 per cent of all Britain's energy from renewable sources by 2015.

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