Ion Equity

SWS Energy

SWS Energy is a leading developer and operator of wind generation projects with a significant presence in the all-Ireland wind energy market.  The business grew as a division of the SWS Group, which was established as a farmers’ co-operative in 1957 and was acquired by Ion Equity in December 2006 for €200m (enterprise value).  The business was sold by Ion Equity to Bord Gáis Éireann in December 2009 for €550m.

At the time SWS Energy was acquired by Ion Equity in December 2006, it had operating wind farms of 20MW, 67MW under construction and a further 100MW of pipeline projects which were still in the planning and grid application process. It was also focused on developing a range of biomass energy and waste processing businesses.

Ion Equity implemented a strategy of focusing exclusively on wind energy development and led a rapid expansion effort funded through an equity and bond fundraising in September 2007 of €104m. 

The business grew rapidly through 2007 and 2008 by accelerating the development of organic wind energy projects and acquiring a number of early stage projects.  By 2009 it had 10 projects in operation with a capacity of 180MW, together with an advanced pipeline of projects totaling 500MW, many of which had full consents in place. 

At the time of sale, SWS Energy was the largest independent wind energy business in Ireland, and the second largest overall. 

Ion Equity delivered a very strong return to investors in the original buyout of SWS Group in December 2006 as well as exceeding base case returns for those investors who supported the expansion of the business in September 2007. These returns were achieved over a period of time when the value of virtually every public and private equity index fell significantly.