Stock idea: Sabien Technology – the dividend payer to watch

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When most investors think of investing in clean tech, a boiler optimisation specialist may not be the first option to spring to mind.

However, while innovative renewable energy solutions and state-of-the-art green information technology systems may boast a certain ‘wow’ factor, the energy efficiency devices produced by AIM-listed Sabien Technology have the proven capacity to offer organisations and consumers savings on their energy bills – and should deliver investors dependable dividends.

Sabien’s leading product, M2G, is a box that optimises the performance of commercial boilers. Both private and commercial boilers suffer from a defect known as ‘dry-cycling’, meaning a boiler continues to fire long-after it has reached a required temperature. This is because, when a boiler reaches that temperature and begins to cool, it begins to reheat again to recover ‘lost’ temperature. This phenomenon means businesses suffer inflated bills every year.

“Our customers typically enjoy a cut of about 25 per cent in their energy bills – although we’ve had as high as 40 in some cases,” says Alan O’Brien Sabien founder and chief executive (pictured). “The device costs £1,850 – meaning the average buyer makes their money back within two years.”

The latter two quarters of last year saw orders for the M2G increase by 25 per cent – major purchasers included British Telecom, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lincolnshire County Council, and the Ministry of Defence. Sabien celebrated its 10th birthday last year (and will celebrate the decennary of its stock market flotation next year) – but this could be only the beginning. “Rough industry estimates place the number of commercial boilers in the UK at somewhere in the region of six million,” says O’Brien, “we’ve only fitted 9,000 M2Gs so far, so there’s plenty of growing we can do.”

“On top of the M2G, we’re also investing in other products that have a wider application,” O’Brien continues. Of particular note is the M1G, a device that will reduce the operating costs of direct-fired water heaters. This product would have relevance both to individual consumers and household boiler manufacturers; to enjoy direct energy savings in the case of the former, and for ‘white-labelling’ purposes in the case of the latter. Alan says that trials of the M1G showed the device would pay for itself after just one year; “from then on in, it’d be pure savings for the customer.” The device hasn’t been released for wider consumption as yet – but it could well be in the near future.

While evidently eyeing a significant market standing in the UK, O’Brien has also set Sabien on a course of international expansion. The drive to reduce carbon emissions and secure energy savings is, after all, not restricted to the UK. Sabien has an effective presence in over 30 countries worldwide, including the vast emerging markets of India and China. South Korea and Japan are also on the firm’s hitlist this year.

The business has achieved this global penetration by way of a series of white-label agreements (for instance, in the US, Sabien products are sold via national burner management company Fireye), and the pioneering use of ‘tech-centres’, where sales representatives market Sabien products directly to resident distributors. The approach means Sabien’s presence abroad is virtual, removing the prospective risks associated with direct overseas exposure while ensuring localised capability.

“We’ve erected a really strong international sales pipeline with minimal investment,” concludes O’Brien. “All that’s left to do now is wait for contracts to land.”

Given Sabien’s potential for growth, it’s unsurprising that Westhouse rated Sabien shares a ‘buy’ in February this year; the share is already dividend-paying. 2015 could be the year that Sabien becomes the UK’s leading clean tech success story. Investors and competitors would do well to take note.

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