Energy utility puts US wind assets up for sale

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NTR has formally put its remaining US wind energy assets up for sale, with initial bids expected in the New Year.

The Dublin-based renewable energy-focused utility has shifted its focus to Europe and intends to invest approximately €50m in 150 megawatts worth of construction-ready windfarm projects across Ireland, Scandinavia, and Britain over the next 12 months. While this plan was criticised by shareholders at the group’s AGM in September, so too was the retaining of remaining US assets.

However, at that time, NTR did say it was reviewing the prospect of selling up in the US and would decide on a course of action by the end of the year. Earlier this year, NTR reached agreement to sell its Oklahoma-based Osage windfarm project for $60m (€44m), some of which is still pending.

Yesterday, NTR confirmed the results of said review and said it has — via its US subsidiary, Wind Capital Group — appointed independent advisers Marathon Capital LLC (which also undertook the intitial review) to lauch a formal sales process.

The sale will cover two projects: The Post Rock and Lost Creek energy projects in Kansas and Missouri, respectively. Together, they comprise 350mW of operating assets, with long-term off-take contracts. After the sale, NTR will have no further asset base in the US market.

NTR chief executive Rosheen McGuckian said the review had indicated that the market for selling US operational wind projects is currently “very favourable” and that the profile and quality of the two wind projects should be attractive to “a wide range of potential purchasers”.

“Taking these factors into consideration,” she said, “the board has decided that launching a sale process is an appropriate strategy to optimise the value inherent in these projects.”

“The process will formally launch later this month, with a view to seeking initial bids from interested parties in the New Year,” NTR added in a statement.

NTR recently acquired 14 250kW single turbine wind power projects in the North, via the takeover of the energy division of KN Network Services, for an undisclosed sum; one element of its aforementioned European expansion plan.

At the group’s September AGM, its two main independent shareholders — investment firms One 51 and Pageant Holdings — criticised the board’s structure, called for the sale of its US assets, and expressed no confidence in its European plans.

At that meeting, One-51 — NTR’s second largest shareholder with a near 24% stake — said it had no confidence in NTR’s strategy, having already lost €260m on its investment in the group since 2007. It made no comment on the announcement of the US disposal plan, yesterday.

NTR has defended its board structure (saying it is run independently, fairly, and appropriately) and has said it has no plans to change its strategy in Europe.

In July, NTR reported a profit of €31.4m for 2013, its first profit for five years and a turnaround from a loss of €16.2m in the previous year. Earnings, minus exceptional items, amounted to €45.8m, up by 138% on 2012. Last year’s revenues rose from €35.3m to €45.6m, and the group’s coffers — its overall cash balance as of year end amounted to nearly €42m — were boosted by an initial €12.9m tranche from the Osage wind project sale.


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