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Goldman controversy clouds the largest European IPO this year

Shares in Danish windfarm company DONG Energy got some wind their sails on their stock market debut Thursday as the executive told CNBC that there were opportunities for growth all over the world, playing down a controversy surrounding Goldman Sachs' holding in the group.

Shares of the majority state-owned Danish utility and windfarm developer were indicated to open at 256 Danish crowns ($39.20) but rose to trade at 258DKK per share as the Copenhagen-listed stock launched.

The initial public offering (IPO) of the majority-state-owned utilities and offshore windfarm developer was expected to do well in and is Europe's largest stock listing so far this year. The offer price was 235DKK per share, giving the company a market capitalization of $15 billion.


Wind turbines sit in the North Sea at the London Array offshore wind farm, a partnership between Dong Energy and Abu Dhabi-based Masdar.
Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Wind turbines sit in the North Sea at the London Array offshore wind farm, a partnership between Dong Energy and Abu Dhabi-based Masdar.

Dong Energy Chief Executive Henrik Poulson told CNBC on Thursday that there was global potential for the company's clean-energy products.

"We see a very strong global market now expanding for offshore wind, not only in the U.K., Germany and Denmark but we also see markets like the Netherlands, France and Belgium increasingly going into offshore wind and more recently we've seen also countries like the U.S., Taiwan and China beginning to move towards offshore wind so this is truly turning into a global industry," he told CNBC ahead of the launch.

The IPO has not been universally popular, however, with the Financial Times newspaper reporting of "outrage" in Denmark over the windfall that the IPO will give investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Two funds managed by the bank invested 8 billion DKK ($1.2 billion) in DONG in 2013 (giving them a 19 percent stake in the company) on the proviso that the firm IPO, and with other conditions attached, leading many Danes to feel that the government was selling-out in the part-privatization.

With the successful IPO, Goldman stands to see its investment more than double, the FT noted, but there are many in Denmark who are also not happy with the bank's investment terms that gave it veto rights over any deviation from the company's investment strategy.

Poulson told CNBC that Goldman Sachs "special rights would be gone with the IPO today."

The CEO was sanguine about competition in the market, brushing off concerns that a European renewable energy company could struggle to compete with expanding Chinese businesses and a stable domestic clean energy industry in the U.S.

"We see a lot of opportunities. Being a global leader in offshore wind we see a lot of opportunity for offshore wind not only in Europe but in Asia and also North America. There is no doubt that there is significant momentum in the transformation to green energy on a global scale," he said.

"This is really the transformation that we're building on, pushing forward on offshore wind, continuing to innovate the technology and make it even more cost-efficient, scaling it up and we do believe that we have the technology to offer governments around the world which is very attractive in terms of offering de-carbonization at a competitive price."

Over 72 million shares were sold in DONG Energy's share offering, equaling 17.4 percent of the company's share capital, the company said in a press release, and the company said more than 36,000 new investors had been allocated the shares.

Retail investors in Denmark were allocated approximately 10 percent of the offer shares, and the remaining 90 percent were allocated to Danish and international institutional investors. CEO Poulson said the company would remain controlled of the Danish government which retains a 50.1 percent stake in the company and would be managing the company "on an arms-length basis."

He said the company had never been used as a policy instrument and that the government wanted the company to develop on commercial terms.