new hire

Investment banking firm launches cleantech group, names Houston-based co-leader

Moelis hired Arash Nazhad as Houston-based managing director and co-head of its newly formed clean energy technology group. Photo via rice.edu

A Houston investment banker has been tapped as co-leader of a new team at investment bank Moelis & Co. that will mine the energy sector for cleantech deals.

Publicly traded Moelis said September 7 that it hired Arash Nazhad as Houston-based managing director and co-head of its newly formed clean energy technology group. Nazhad joins Moelis from financial services giant Citigroup, where he was managing director of its clean energy investment team. He worked at Citigroup for nine years.

During his tenure at Citigroup and, before that, Norwegian energy company Equinor (which operates a Houston office), Nazhad helped carry out more than $50 billion in M&A advisory activities and helped raise over $40 billion in capital for clients. He’s been involved in the rollout of more than 20 IPOs.

“Moelis is very well-positioned to help clients navigate the far-reaching implications of the energy transition that is underway,” Nazhad tells EnergyCapitalHTX. “Houston is a major player in the cleantech ecosystem, and I’m thrilled to join Moelis and leverage the breadth of the firm’s capital market solutions, advisory services, and global connectivity to support clients in this space.”

Nazhad will run the new Moelis group alongside Rick Polhemus, the investment bank’s San Francisco-based managing director. Polhemus, formerly an executive at investment bank Morgan Stanley, joined Moelis last October.

Jeff Raich, co-founder and co-president of Moelis, says the backgrounds of Nazhad and Polhemus make them “uniquely positioned to lead our efforts and expand opportunities for clients in this rapidly changing environment.”

“The energy transition that is underway demands integrated advisory services, access to capital, and strategic long-term planning,” adds Navid Mahmoodzadegan, co-founder and co-president of Moelis.

“Achieving net-zero emissions will require a significant increase in spending,” Mahmoodzadegan adds, “and our dedicated clean energy efforts better position us to be a seamless partner to our strategic, financial sponsor, and venture capital clients as we leverage our dynamic advisory practice and global connectivity.”

Nazhad and his colleagues will be searching for cleantech deals in a supercharged sector.

The International Energy Agency says global investment in cleantech is on track to hit $1.7 trillion this year. An impressive share of that money is being pumped into cleantech startups. Globally, VC funding in the cleantech sector soared from $1.9 billion in 2019 to $12.3 billion in 2022, according to management consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Nazhad’s M&A experience should prove particularly beneficial for Moelis’ new cleantech arm.

A recent report from management consulting firm West Monroe indicates cleantech M&A “is picking up speed.” The report is based on the firm’s survey of 200 corporate and private equity executives.

“The overarching trend is that cleantech is no longer the stuff of speculation, but a viable sector benefiting from a confluence of tailwinds, including high energy demand, the need for secure supplies that complement fossil fuels, and more ambitious policymaking efforts targeting decarbonization,” the report says.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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