France’s McPhy begins exclusive negotiations to sell its filling station equipment unit to compatriot Atawey

French electrolyser maker McPhy says it has entered exclusive negotiations to sell its hydrogen refuelling business to compatriot Atawey, a French company that also manufactures equipment for H2 filling stations.

The move comes less than two months after UK electrolyser maker ITM sold its 50% stake in its hydrogen refuelling joint venture Motive Fuels — which at one point operated seven filling stations in the UK.

ITM CEO Dennis Schulz had said he wanted the loss-making company to focus on fewer core products — namely, electrolysers — especially as there were fewer heavy-duty hydrogen vehicles on the road than originally anticipated.

Loss-making McPhy has similar ambitions, stating: “Successful negotiations shall enable McPhy to allocate its resources primarily to electrolyser manufacturing.

“The repositioning of McPhy’s focus on electrolyser manufacturing has been driven by the need for greater specialisation in each of the hydrogen industry’s core business activities, given the strong growth in the market.

“The size of hydrogen projects, particularly for industry, is expanding rapidly, requiring more resources for the mass production of high-capacity electrolysers.

“McPhy will now exclusively devote to this task, drawing on its pan-European industrial setup, including its upcoming [1GW electrolyser] Gigafactory in Belfort [in northeast France] and support functions in Grenoble, [southeast] France, its engineering site in Wildau, Germany, and its [300MW electrolyser] manufacturing facility in San Miniato, Italy.”

The supply of hydrogen filling stations accounted for 32% of McPhy’s revenues in 2022, “with a portfolio of projects signed, commissioned and/or under execution, representing 40 stations”, the company pointed out.

Jean-Michel Amaré, CEO of Atawey, which has supplied equipment to 30 H2 filling stations, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to confirm Atawey as a European leader in hydrogen stations. The complementary nature of our activities and the proximity of our corporate cultures will help us to achieve a transaction that satisfies all our stakeholders, including first and foremost our employees.

“This would undoubtedly be a major step forward not only for Atawey, but also for the structuring of the French hydrogen mobility ecosystem.”

The electrolyser maker added: “McPhy will continue the negotiations initiated with the required confidentiality and will inform the markets of its possible outcome, in particular if a binding offer should be received.”

Although there are relatively few hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road today, the EU’s Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR), which became law in late September, requires the 27 member states to ensure that publicly accessible gaseous H2 filling stations capable of serving both heavy-duty and light vehicles are set up in every “urban node” and every 200km along the core routes of the planned Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) by 2030.

The TEN-T core network links “urban nodes” — an EU term for 424 major cities in the bloc with ports, airports and rail terminals.

McPhy’s net loss in the 12 months to 30 June 2023 stood at €23.5m, according to its most recent financial results.

Almost all pure-play electrolyser manufacturers are currently loss-making as they expand capacity to meet future demand, while developers hesitate to take final investment decisions on major green hydrogen projects, mainly due to ongoing uncertainties around subsidy schemes

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