Power lines near Nad Al Sheba. Taqa recorded a strong top line performance with a 14 per cent increase in revenues due to higher oil prices, plus growth in its power and water portfolio. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: National Energy has sold its 7 per cent stake in Tesla, cashing in on a stock rally that has seen the electric carmaker's shares surge more than 20 per cent over the past year.

The move, which netted the company — also known as Taqa — a profit of Dh415 million on the book price, came as the energy giant announced that it has taken a 50 per cent stake in a Kurdistan power plant.

Taqa, which is 75 per cent owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, has expanded aggressively in the energy sector over the past four years, and analysts told Gulf News yesterday that the move out of Tesla and into Kurdistan was not unexpected.

"Taqa's investment in Tesla was good, but strange for it," said Robin Mills, an oil analyst.

The firm admitted as much in a statement yesterday, pointing out that its investment in the electric car manufacturer — the pet project of a group of Silicon Valley engineers — only came about after the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority transferred its stake to Taqa in December 2010.

Remarkable ally

"While Taqa respects and has admiration for Tesla's vision, technology and products, Tesla was a non-core investment for Taqa that was originally made by ADWEA and transferred to us. We hope to use the profit to pursue energy opportunities in the Mena [Middle East North Africa] region," a Taqa spokesman told Reuters yesterday.

Reuters reported that Tesla shares have risen 21 per cent year-to-date and have doubled from its 2010 listing price of $17 on bullish sentiment towards the electric car industry at a time of rising oil prices.

Waddah Taha, chief analyst at Zarouni Group, said that the Kurdistan deal — which is in partnership with Mass Global Investment Company and relates to a gas power plant in Sulaimaniyah — was a smart move for the firm.

"Investment in Kurdistan came as there were very positive signs that there are great potentials in that region which will also help export power to neighbouring countries including southern Turkey and Western Iran," he said.

Mills added that the Kurdistan plant, which currently has a capacity of 750 megawatts with an additional 250 under construction, was the latest in a long line of investments made by Taqa in the energy field.

Taqa chief executive Carl Sheldon previously said that Taqa plans to spend on oil and gas drilling in western Canada and the North Sea, as well as in expansion programmes in Morocco, Ghana and the Bergermeer gas project in the Netherlands.

Outstanding debt

Stephen Kersley, chief financial officer, earlier put Taqa's total outstanding debt at the end of 2011 at Dh72.1 billion, of which nearly half is project debt and the remainder corporate debt.

Aabar Investments, a sovereign wealth fund owned by Abu Dhabi through its International Petroleum Investment Company, owns around 4 per cent of Tesla.

Carmakers Daimler and Toyota also own stakes in the company, which expects to turn profitable next year and sees revenues this year nearly tripling, spurred by deliveries of its premium electric sedan, the Model S, set to begin in July.