The reasoning behind a law that requires a phase-out of the current incandescent bulbs in favor of the new green bulbs - the latter are more efficient and better for the environment - might be a good idea the surface.
But when you find out the same government that is forcing us to begin paying $2-$3 each for light bulbs is not only involved financially with the deal, but is helping to fund the Chinese company that will be making the bulbs, the good intentions begin to lose their luster.
Goldman Sachs, via its Asian subsidiary, and Cisco, through its investment vehicle SAIF, or SB Asian Investment Fund, began buying the stock in 2008 and 2006 respectively. The lighting company went public in 2010 on the Hong Kong stock exchange, and both SAIF and Goldman Sachs were represented on the board.
At the time of NVC's share offering, SAIF was listed as the largest single shareholder. In fact, SAIF owned 36 percent of NVC's shares, while Goldman Sachs initially owned about 11 percent, which has dropped to 9.36 percent.
The initial buy-ins were particularly timely, because the law requiring a phase-out of old bulbs was passed in 2007. And shortly thereafter NVC, China's premier lighting company, began a multi-million dollar marketing campaign to make sure that China is successful in manufacturing a huge portion of the new green bulbs Americans and other Westerners are going to be required to use. That's a nice little financial arrangement if you can get it.
This entire effort to enrich China's dominant lighting firm, as well as the U.S. corporations "lucky enough" to have bought into the company just in time, is being funded by a financing vehicle known as the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). And the Treasury Department is a major contributor to the GEF.
Overseas sales accounted for 20 percent of NVC's revenues last year, but the company says it hopes to increase that to 50 percent in the "near future," according to the company's prospectus. NVC wants to capture about 21 percent of a $39 billion global industry over the next three years. And, one of the major factors in that growth is the mega-million dollar GEF project.
The U.S. (meaning, you) has contributed $90 million to the fund this year alone, and plans to contribute another $575 million between 2011 and 2014. So in essence, American taxpayers are subsidizing the growth of a Chinese lighting company so it can sell expensive, government-mandated light bulbs back to us, while a pair of well-positioned U.S. corporations profit, all while ensuring that more Chinese workers are employed as the U.S. unemployment rate continues to hover near double digits.
Didn't President Obama just give a jobs speech the other night?