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Energy startup wins pitch competition, new exec named, and more top Houston energy transition news

A Houston startup secures a win at a local competition — and more energy transition news. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: It's been a busy news week for energy transition in Houston, and some of this week's headlines resonated with EnergyCapital readers on social media and daily newsletter. Trending news included news of clean energy deals, a global firm names a new exec, and more.

Houston company acquired by private equity​ firm, plans to expand support of energy transition

The deal and financial support will help Saber to expand its services within the energy transition, including the ability to build out renewables and battery resources amid the electrification of the U.S. economy. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston-based infrastructure services platform has been acquired by an energy industry-focused private equity firm.

Saber Power Services announced last month that it has been acquired by an investor group led by Greenbelt Capital Management from funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management. The acquisition was in partnership with funds managed by Schroders Capital, StepStone Group, and Wafra Inc., according to the company's news release.

Saber, founded in 2010, is an electrical services firm that provides design, construction, testing, and maintenance services and solutions across the energy spectrum — renewables, battery storage, utility, industrial, and energy infrastructure markets. The company's customers are located throughout Texas and the Southeast. Read more.

Global consulting firm names new Houston energy practice leader​

Alvarez & Marsal announced the appointment of Jay Johnson as senior adviser to its energy practice. Photo via alvarezandmarsal.com

A top global professional services firm named a Houston-based energy leader amid industry evolution and regulatory changes.

Alvarez & Marsal, or A&M, announced the appointment of Jay Johnson as senior adviser to its energy practice.

“I enjoy bringing together teams of people to solve the complex challenges facing companies today,” Johnson says in a news release. “I’m looking forward to working with A&M’s energy team to build leadership and capabilities to address industry challenges.” Read more.

Houston energy SaaS startup wins local pitch competition

Houston-based WellWorth was selected as the winner of this year’s Houston Startup Showcase. Photo via LinkedIn

The Ion hosted its annual startup pitch competition, and one company walked away with a win.

WellWorth, a financial modeling and analysis software-as-a-service company for the upstream energy sector, won the Houston Startup Showcase + Expo and secured a $5,000 prize. The startup's technology introduces a more streamlined approach to NAV modeling or corporate financial modeling for its users.

“Having worked in investment banking, I have seen firsthand how the limitations of Excel models and a lack of bespoke tools have led to inefficient workflows in upstream Oil & Gas finance," says Samra Nawaz, CEO and Co-founder of WellWorth, in a statement. "We decided to solve this problem by building a cloud-based platform that helps energy finance leaders improve decision-making around raising, managing, and deploying capital.” Read more.

ExxonMobil’s Low Carbon Solution president makes inaugural TIME100 Climate list

The Houston-based executive makes the list of along with John Kerry, Bill Gates, and more. Photo via exxonmobil.com

A Houston energy executive has made the cut on an inaugural ranking of top climate action leaders.

TIME magazine’s first-ever TIME100 Climate list, which highlights “100 of the world’s most influential leaders driving climate action in business,” and ExxonMobil’s president of Low Carbon Solution business Dan Ammann has made it onto the list.

“The real credit goes to the ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions team for the progress we’ve made so far,“ Amann says in a LinkedIn post. “It’s great to see the world recognizing that ExxonMobil has a major role to play in accelerating the world’s path to net zero.” Read more.

Transocean calls for energy innovators, extends deadline for submissions

Transocean is looking for Houston innovators to help them on their decarbonization journey. Photo via Transocean

A major energy corporation has put its feelers out for Houston innovators solving for challenges within the decarbonization of offshore drilling operations.

Transocean, a Switzerland-based offshore energy leader with its United States headquarters in Houston, kicked off its Transocean Open Innovation Challenge this fall. The original deadline has been extended to December 15, and the program is in partnership with the Ion. Read more.

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A View From HETI

Shareholders of the electric vehicle and solar panel company are voting on the package, with the results to be tabulated at Tesla's June 13 annual meeting. Photo via cdn.britannica.com

A second shareholder advisory firm has come out against reinstating a pay package for Tesla CEO Elon Musk that was voided earlier this year by a Delaware judge.

ISS late Thursday joined Glass Lewis in recommending against the package, recently valued by the company at $44.9 billion but in January had a value of about $56 billion.

Shareholders of the electric vehicle and solar panel company are voting on the package, with the results to be tabulated at Tesla's June 13 annual meeting.

ISS said in its recommendations on Tesla's proxy voting items that Musk's stock-based package was outsized when it was approved by shareholders in 2018, and it failed to accomplish board objectives voiced at that time.

The firm said that Tesla met the pay package’s performance objectives, and it recognized the company's substantial growth in size and profitability. But concerns about Musk spending too much time on other ventures that were raised in 2018 and since then have not been sufficiently addressed, ISS said.

“The grant, in many ways, failed to achieve the board’s other original objectives of focusing CEO Musk on the interests of Tesla shareholders, as opposed to other business endeavors, and aligning his financial interests more closely with those of Tesla stockholders,” ISS wrote.

Also, future concerns remain unaddressed, including a lack of clarity on Musk's future compensation and the potential for his pay to significantly dilute shareholder value, ISS wrote.

Musk plays big roles in his other ventures including SpaceX, Neuralink and the Boring Company. Last year he bought social media platform X and formed an artificial intelligence unit called xAI.

Last week the other prominent proxy advisory firm, Glass Lewis, also recommended against reinstating Musk's 2018 compensation package. The firm said the package would dilute shareholders' value by about 8.7%. The rationale for the package “does not in our view adequately consider dilution and its long-lasting effects on disinterested shareholders,” Glass Lewis wrote.

But in a proxy filing, Tesla said that Glass Lewis failed to consider that the 2018 award incentivized Musk to create over $735 billion in value for shareholders in the six years since it was approved.

“Tesla is one of the most successful enterprises of our time,” the filing said. “We have revolutionized the automotive market and become the first vertically integrated sustainable energy company."

Tesla is struggling with falling global sales, slowing electric vehicle demand, an aging model lineup and a stock price that has tumbled about 30% this year.

Tesla asked shareholders to restore Musk's pay package after it was rejected by a Delaware judge this year. At the time, it also asked to shift the company’s legal corporate home to Texas.

Glass Lewis recommended against moving the legal corporate home to Texas, but ISS said it favored the move.

California’s public employee retirement system, which holds a stake in Tesla, said it has not made a final decision on how it will vote on Musk’s pay. But CEO Marcie Frost told CNBC that as of Wednesday, the system would not vote in favor. CalPERS, which opposed the package in 2018, said it will discuss the matter with Tesla “in the coming days.”

In January, Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick ruled that Musk is not entitled to the landmark stock compensation that was to be granted over 10 years.

Ruling on a lawsuit from a shareholder, she voided the pay package, saying that Musk essentially controlled the board, making the process of enacting the compensation unfair to stakeholders. “Musk had extensive ties with the persons tasked with negotiating on Tesla’s behalf,” she wrote in her ruling.

In a letter to shareholders released in a regulatory filing last month, Tesla Chairwoman Robyn Denholm said that Musk has delivered on the growth it was looking for at the automaker, with Tesla meeting all of the stock value and operational targets in the 2018 package. Shares at the time were up 571% since the pay package began.

“Because the Delaware Court second-guessed your decision, Elon has not been paid for any of his work for Tesla for the past six years that has helped to generate significant growth and stockholder value,” Denholm wrote. “That strikes us — and the many stockholders from whom we already have heard — as fundamentally unfair, and inconsistent with the will of the stockholders who voted for it.”

Tesla posted record deliveries of more than 1.8 million electric vehicles worldwide in 2023, but the value of its shares has eroded quickly this year as EV sales soften.

The company said it delivered 386,810 vehicles from January through March, nearly 9% fewer than it sold in the same period last year. Future growth is in doubt and it may be a challenge to get shareholders to back a fat pay package in an environment where competition has increased worldwide.

Starting last year, Tesla has cut prices as much as $20,000 on some models. The price cuts caused used electric vehicle values to drop and clipped Tesla’s profit margins.

In April, Tesla said that it was letting about 10% of its workers go, about 14,000 people.

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