Darby Invests in Leading Czech Renewable Energy Company

Darby Overseas Investments, Ltd. ("Darby"), the private equity arm of Franklin Templeton Investments, announced that the Darby Converging Europe Mezzanine Fund (DCEMF) made an initial disbursement under a EUR 15.3 million (US$21.5 million) multi-tranche facility extended to Energy 21, the leading developer, investor and operator of solar power plants in the Czech Republic. Transaction details were not disclosed.

Energy 21 is active in solar power generation, solar power plant development and system integration. With 10 megawatts (MW) installed capacity, Energy 21 is the leading solar power plant operator and developer in the Czech Republic and a pioneer in the sector in the Central and Eastern Europe region. Energy 21 plans to reach 40 MW installed capacity by the end of 2009 and is also the leading solar power systems integrator in the Czech Republic, through its subsidiary, CE Solar.

Robert D. Graffam, Darby’s Senior Managing Director – Europe, commented, "We are very pleased to have concluded this investment in Energy 21 as it continues Darby’s longstanding commitment to investing in the renewable energy sector. We are attracted to Energy 21 because of its strong industry leadership, strong execution capabilities and the favorable regulatory framework for solar energy in the Czech Republic."

Daniel Kunz, Energy 21’s Chairman and CEO, commented, "Darby’s investment will improve Energy 21’s competitive advantage, particularly at a time sourcing new capital is extremely difficult. This confirms the quality of our business concept. The mezzanine financing we received will be used to develop the core activities of Energy 21 — the construction of new photovoltaic plants, development of power plants for external clients, and distribution of solar components."

Clean energy has been an important focus for several Darby initiatives. Recently, Darby invested in a hydro- and biomass-fired thermal power plant in northern Brazil and is the leading shareholder in a South Korea wind farm that is now the largest in the country and among the largest in Asia. Darby also invested in a wind- and hydro-power plant developer which is India’s first independent power producer.

In 2007, Darby invested in a rapeseed crushing plant in Poland that supplies rapeseed oil to the bio-diesel industry. Moreover, clean and renewable energy projects constitute a large number of potential infrastructure investments under consideration by Darby’s investment teams in Latin America, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe.

Darby has played a pioneering role in bringing mezzanine — a hybrid of both debt and equity — to emerging market regions, initially Latin America, then to Asia and most recently to Central and Southeastern Europe. DCEMF currently has EUR 208 million (US$291 million) in committed capital, making it one of the largest dedicated sources of mezzanine finance in this region.

Darby Overseas Investments, Ltd. was founded in 1994 by The Honorable Nicholas F. Brady, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury between 1988 and 1993. Richard Frank joined the firm as CEO in 1997 after his career at the IFC/ World Bank. In 2003 Darby became a fully owned subsidiary of Franklin Resources, Inc. (NYSE: BEN), a global investment management organization operating as Franklin Templeton Investments.

Franklin Templeton Institutional, part of Franklin Templeton Investments, provides global and domestic investment management solutions managed by the Franklin Global Advisers, Templeton, Franklin Templeton Fixed Income, Franklin Templeton Real Estate Advisors, Darby and Mutual Series investment management teams. Franklin Templeton Investments, based in San Mateo, California, has more than 60 years of investment experience and over US$482 billion in assets under management as of July 31, 2009.