Questions raised over UK's state-backed fund for electric car charging

(The Guardian, 8 Nov 2019) Labour criticises tender as firm running £400m investment fund awards millions to company it part-owns.

The private equity firm appointed by the government to manage as much as £400m in investment in electric car charging points has awarded millions of pounds to a company in which it holds a controlling financial interest.

Zouk Capital is the largest shareholder in charge point builder Instavolt, having made an £18m investment in the company. Now Zouk has chosen Instavolt as the charge point fund’s first beneficiary, a decision criticised by the Labour party.

The Conservative government announced its intention to establish a charging infrastructure investment fund in the autumn budget of 2017, amid plans to encourage drivers to choose electric cars, which emit lower or zero carbon dioxide . The £400m government-backed fund initially aims to deliver 3,000 additional rapid-charge points for electric cars, more than doubling the number of electric car charging points in the UK.

However, the fund’s rollout, which hoped to match £200m in private-sector investment with public money, was delayed by almost two years, amid difficulties in recruiting an investment manager.

The government finally awarded the mandate to manage the fund to Zouk Capitalin September. It also announced that the fund had raised the first £70m, with half provided by the government and half coming from Abu Dhabi-based renewables investor Masdar.

Zouk declined to say exactly how much of the first £70m had gone to Instavolt. However, Samer Salty, Zouk’s founder and managing partner, said it was “less than 50%”. Salty expects to invest more of the fund into other companies by the end of the year.

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The Guardian, 8 Nov 2019: Questions raised over UK's state-backed fund for electric car charging