Westport looks to China to drive clean-engine demand

Tue Sep 16, 2014 5:31pm EDT
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By Ashutosh Pandey and Sneha Banerjee

(Reuters) - China's quest for clean air will be the main driver of growth for Westport Innovations Inc in the next two years, creating new demand for engines that run on natural gas, the company's chief executive said.

Westport, yet to turn a profit since listing in Toronto 15 years ago, is betting on Chinese trucks and buses snapping up its technology with more urgency than its lackluster home market of North America.

"China is highly motivated and, with their energy policy in place to encourage domestic natural gas, that's very clearly something we have to take seriously," Chief Executive David Demers told Reuters in an interview.

Air pollution has figured high on Beijing's agenda since a choking smog dubbed the "airpocalypse" engulfed key Chinese cities in January 2013, leading Premier Li Keqiang to announce a "war on pollution" in March this year.

China became the world's No. 3 gas consumer in 2013, with consumption rising 14 percent to 167.6 billion cubic meters (5.9 trillion cubic feet) - driven in part by demand for cleaner fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Adoption of Westport's technology has been frustratingly slow in the United States and Canada, where natural-gas fueling stations remain scarce and diesel engines, already cheaper, have also become more efficient.

North America accounted for 42 percent of Westport's revenue in 2013. Asia contributed just 11 percent.

Westport's Toronto-listed stock has lost more than half of its value in the last 12 months. The company's market value has shrunk to $795 million.   Continued...