NTR Ups Its Wind Capital Stake To 97pc After Green Plains Sale
The Irish Independent : March 03 2012
By John Mulligan
Irish utilities firm NTR has secured virtually full ownership of US-based Wind Capital Energy as it continues to refocus its investment strategy. The announcement comes immediately after NTR said it had sold nearly its entire holding in Nebraska bioethanol producer Green Plains Renewable Energy for close to $72m (€54m). It's left holding a 2pc stake in the fuel group. Nearly $45m of that will be immediately received by NTR, with the remainder payable by Green Plains within a year. NTR has increased its stake in Wind Capital to 97pc from 62pc.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, NTR chief executive Michael McNicholas said that the Wind Capital deal "made sense" for NTR and for major founding shareholder Tom Carnahan, who owned about 32pc of the Missouri-based energy group.
Mr Carnahan stepped down as chairman of Wind Capital earlier this year. His family has deep political roots. His sister is the Missouri Secretary of State, while his father was once the state's governor. Mr McNicholas declined to say what valuation had been placed on the Wind Capital group citing commercial sensitivity.
He said there was no current need to buy the outstanding 3pc of Wind Capital that's owned by two other founding members, but that NTR would be willing to sit down with them if they decided to sell.
He also said that Wind Capital, which currently has 350 megawatts of operational assets, could seek to secure a partner in the future to develop further wind projects. "There's a scale that's appropriate for NTR," he said.
In January, Wind Capital finalised $350m in debt finance for its 201 megawatt Post Rock wind energy project in Kansas. NTR also invested additional equity in Wind Capital at the time.
Construction of the Post Rock scheme began last year. It's slated to come on stream in the second half of 2012 and to provide enough electricity to power 70,000 homes.
Wind Capital has also passed the first stage in securing the go-ahead for developing a $540m (€408m) 300-megawatt wind farm in Florida. It would be the first in the state, but the plans have been controversial, with environmentalists voicing concerns about its potential impact.
Mr McNicholas, a former ESB trouble shooter, joined NTR last year. Since then he has set about revitalising the group, which owns waste management firm Greenstar and an interest in a small number of road assets.
The company has posted huge losses in recent years after writing off significant investments in a US solar business and writing down the value of Greenstar. "We've made very good progress. It's been very hard work," he said. "We're not there yet."