French oil and gas giant TotalEnergies has closed its CVC arm, TotalEnergies Ventures, and sold its portfolio of climate tech startups to Paris-based VC firm Aster.
Founded in 2008, TotalEnergies Ventures invested in climate tech companies in Europe, Africa and the US. The CVC decided to stop activities around the start of last year, Aster managing partner Jean-Marc Bally tells Sifted, and then underwent a bidding process to sell off its portfolio as secondaries.
The move goes against the trend of rising appetite from oil and gas companies in backing climate tech startups. Data from Dealroom suggests that the six largest fossil fuel companies in the world, which includes TotalEnergies, participated in venture deals worth a record $1.3bn in 2022 — up from $746m five years prior.
Aster, a VC firm which has invested in around 100 companies since it launched in 2000, will take on TotalEnergies’ entire portfolio of 18 companies, Bally said. Aster’s existing portfolio includes solar power provider Zola and US SaaS unicorn Docker.
TotalEnergies Ventures portfolio includes companies like smart meter company Tado, hydrogen startup Sunfire and EV subscription service Onto. It launched a $400m fund in 2019, designed to be deployed across five years.
In March last year — around the time when the bidding process for the portfolio began — TotalEnergies launched “TotalEnergies On”, an accelerator program for clean energy companies. It said at the time that some of the team from the CVC would now work on the accelerator instead.
Bally tells Sifted he cannot comment on the reason behind TotalEnergies’ decision to close its CVC arm. “The lifetime of CVC is always limited,” he says. “It’s part of the evolving strategy of corporations.”
There are other examples of companies selling off their CVC portfolios. For example, General Electric sold off its startup portfolio, GE Ventures, in 2019 at a time when GE’s stock had fallen. The same dynamic doesn't seem to be at play at TotalEnergies, which saw record profits in 2022.
Sifted has reached out to TotalEnergies for comment.