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Robust trading and operational performance in Q1-2021, progressing biomass strategy

RNS Number : 0962W
Drax Group plc
(“Drax” or the “Group”; Symbol:DRX)

Highlights

  • Robust trading and operational performance during the first three months of 2021
  • Completion of acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. (Pinnacle)
  • Strong balance sheet and cash flows
    • Continue to expect net debt to Adjusted EBITDA(1) of around 2 x by the end of 2022
  • Continued focus on clean energy generation and a reduction in carbon emissions
    • Commercial coal generation ended in March 2021, with full closure in September 2022
    • Sale of existing gas generation assets in January 2021
  • Sustainable and growing dividend
    • Final dividend of 10.3 pence per share – subject to shareholder approval at AGM
    • Total dividends of 17.1 pence per share, 7.5% y-o-y growth

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said:

“In the first quarter of 2021 we delivered a robust trading and operational performance, alongside steps to further decarbonise the business and support our flexible and renewable generation strategy. These include the end of commercial coal generation, the sale of our gas power stations and just last week we acquired leading Canadian biomass producer Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc.

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner in the control room at Drax Power Station

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner in the control room at Drax Power Station [Click to view/download]

“The acquisition of Pinnacle positions Drax as the world’s leading sustainable biomass generation and supply business. This advances our strategy to increase self-supply, reduce our own cost of biomass production and create a long-term future for sustainable bioenergy, which will pave the way for the development of negative emissions from Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). BECCS at Drax would make a significant contribution to the UK reaching its new target to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035.”

Trading, operational performance and outlook

The trading and operational performance of the Group has been robust in the first three months of 2021. Full year expectations for the Group remain underpinned by continued good operational availability for the remainder of 2021.

Generation

Drax’s generation portfolio has performed well with good asset availability and optimisation across its portfolio, including a strong system support performance from Cruachan (pumped storage), underpinning a solid financial performance.

During the summer Drax will, as previously announced, undertake planned maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.

In March 2021 Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for the delivery period October 2024 to September 2025.

Drax also secured 15-year agreements for three new 299MW system support Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) projects in England and Wales. As the UK transitions towards a net zero economy it will become increasingly dependent on intermittent renewable generation.  As such, fast response system support technologies, such as these OCGTs, are increasingly important in enabling the UK energy system to run more frequently and securely on intermittent renewable generation. Drax is continuing to evaluate options for these projects including their potential sale.

Pellet Production

Pellet Production has performed well with good production and cost reduction plans on track.

On 13 April 2021, Drax completed its acquisition of Pinnacle. The acquisition advances the Group’s biomass strategy by more than doubling its sustainable biomass production capacity, significantly reducing its cost of production and adding a major biomass supply business, underpinned by long-term third-party supply contracts.

The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022 (increasing to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027).

The acquisition positions Drax as the world’s leading sustainable biomass generation and supply business alongside the continued development of its ambition to be a carbon negative company by 2030, using BECCS.

Pinnacle’s performance in the first three months of 2021 was in line with Drax’s expectations through the acquisition process. Drax will update on full year expectations including Pinnacle at its half year results on 29 July 2021.

Customers

The Group’s I&C(3) supply business performed well. It continues to provide a route to market for Drax’s power and renewable products to high credit quality counterparties as well as opportunities to complement the Group’s system support capabilities.

Trading desk at Haven Power, Ipswich

Trading desk at Haven Power, Ipswich

The SME(4) supply business continued to be affected by the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions in the first three months of 2021. Drax is continuing to explore operational and strategic options for this segment of the business.

Balance sheet

As at 31 March 2021, Drax had cash and total committed facilities of £801 million.

Drax will retain Pinnacle’s existing debt facilities within the enlarged Group’s capital structure but will consider opportunities to optimise its balance sheet with lower cost sources of debt.

Drax continues to expect net debt to Adjusted EBITDA to return to its long-term target of around 2 x by the end of 2022.

Generation contracted power sales

As at 16 April 2021, Drax had 25.7TWh of power sales contracted at £49.0/MWh as follows:

 202120222023
Fixed price power sales (TWh) 15.07.53.2
Contracted % versus 2020 full year output (5)101%51%22%
Of which CfD (TWh) (6)3.2--
At an average achieved price (£ per MWh)49.248.649

Capital allocation and dividend

The Group remains committed to the capital allocation policy established in 2017, through which it aims to maintain a strong balance sheet; invest in the core business; pay a sustainable and growing dividend and return surplus capital beyond investment requirements to shareholders.

A final 2020 dividend of 10.3 pence per share was proposed in the 2020 results on 25 February 2021 and, subject to shareholder approval at today’s Annual General Meeting, will be paid on 14 May 2021.

An interim dividend of 6.8 pence per share was paid on 2 October 2020, making the total 2020 dividend 17.1 pence per share, an increase of 7.5% compared to 2019.

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations: Mark Strafford

+44 (0) 1757 612 491

Media:

Drax External Communications: Ali Lewis

+44 (0) 7712 670 888

Website: www.drax.com/northamerica

END

Completion of the acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc.

Pinnacle named ship

RNS Number : 2689V 
Drax Group plc
(“Drax” or the “Group”; Symbol:DRX)

Drax is pleased to announce that it has completed the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Pinnacle Renewable Inc.

The Acquisition was originally announced on 8 February 2021.

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations: Mark Strafford

+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media:

Drax External Communications: Ali Lewis

+44 (0) 7712 670 888

 

Full year results for the twelve months ended 31 December 2020

Water outlet into Loch Awe from Cruachan Power Station

Drax Group plc
(“Drax” or the “Group”; Symbol:DRX)
RNS Number : 2751Q

Twelve months ended 31 December20202019
Key financial performance measures
Adjusted EBITDA (£ million) (1)(2)412410
Continuing operations366371
Discontinued operations – gas generation4639
Cash generated from operations (£ million)413471
Net debt (£ million) (3)776841
Adjusted basic EPS (pence) (1)29.629.9
Total dividend (pence per share)17.115.9
Total financial performance measures
Coal and other asset obsolescence charges(239)-
Operating (loss) / profit (£ million)(156)48
Loss before tax (£ million)(235)(16)

Financial highlights

  • Adjusted EBITDA from continuing and discontinued operations up £2 million to £412 million (2019: £410 million)
    • Includes estimated impact of Covid-19 of around £60 million, principally SME customers
    • Strong performance in Pellet Production and Generation
  • Strong cash generation and balance sheet
    • 1.9 x net debt to Adjusted EBITDA, with £682 million of cash and committed facilities at 31 December 2020
    • New carbon-linked RCF, Eurobond and infrastructure facilities with maturities to 2030 and reduced cost of debt
  • Sustainable and growing dividend up 7.5% to 17.1 pence per share (2019: 15.9 pence per share)
    • Proposed final dividend of 10.3 pence per share (2019: 9.5 pence per share)

Operational highlights

  • Pellet Production – 7% increase in production, improved quality and 5% reduction in cost
  • Generation – 11% of UK’s renewable electricity, strong operations and system support performance
  • Customers – lower demand and an increase in bad debt provisions, principally SME customers
  • Sustainability – sale of gas assets, end of coal generation, CDP Climate A- rating (2019: C) and TCFD Supporter
Train carrying sustainably sourced compressed wood pellets arriving at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire

Train carrying sustainably sourced compressed wood pellets arriving at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire [click to view/download]

Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group said:

“Drax has supported its customers, communities and employees throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and I want to thank colleagues across the Group for their commitment and hard work over the last year. We have delivered strong results, a growing dividend for shareholders and excellent progress against our business strategy.

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner in the control room at Drax Power Station [Click to view/download]

“Our focus is on renewable power. Our carbon intensity is one of the lowest of all European power generators. We aim to be carbon negative by 2030 and are continuing to make progress. We are announcing today that we will not develop new gas fired power at Drax. This builds on our decision to end commercial coal generation and the recent sale of our existing gas power stations.

“The proposed acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy will position Drax as the world’s leading sustainable biomass generation and supply business, paving the way for us to develop bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – taking us even further in our decarbonisation.”

2021 outlook

  • Targeting carbon negative
    • No new gas generation at Drax Power Station, retain options for system support gas in next capacity auction
    • Completion of sale of existing gas generation (January 2021) and end of commercial coal (March 2021)
  • Progressing biomass strategy
    • Proposed acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. (Pinnacle) – supports long-term options for third-party supply, BECCS and biomass generation
    • BECCS – commencement of DCO planning process, potential FEED study and clarity on regional clusters

Infographic: How BECCS removes carbon from the atmosphere

  • Operations
    • Major planned outage on CfD unit and continued impact of Covid-19 on SME customers
    • Strong contracted power sales (2021–2023) 24.4TWh at £48.5/MWh

Operational review

Pellet Production – capacity expansion, improved quality and reduced cost

  • Adjusted EBITDA up 63% to £52 million (2019: £32 million)
    • Pellet production up 7% to 1.5Mt (2019: 1.4Mt)
    • Reduction in fines (larger particle-sized dust)
    • Cost of production down 5% to $153/t(4) (2019: $161/t(4))
  • Cost reduction plan – targeting $35/t (£13/MWh(5)) saving vs. 2018 on 1.9Mt by 2022 – annual savings of $64 million
    • $28 million of run-rate savings from projects delivered 2019-2020
    • Low-cost fibre, LaSalle (improved rail infrastructure, woodyard and sawmill co-location) and HQ relocation
    • $36 million of additional run-rate savings to be delivered by end of 2022
    • Expansion of Morehouse plant completed Q4 2020
    • Expansion of Amite and LaSalle, increased use of low-cost fibre and improved logistics
  • Additional savings from $40 million investment in three 40kt satellite plants in US Gulf – commissioning from 2021, with potential for up to 0.5Mt – targeting 20% reduction in pellet cost versus current cost

 Power Generation – flexible and renewable generation

  • Adjusted EBITDA up 9% to £446 million (2019: £408 million)
    • Biomass generation up 5% to 14.1TWh (2019: 13.4TWh) – record CfD availability (Q2 2020 – 99.5%)
    • Good commercial availability across the portfolio – 91% (2019: 88%)
    • Strong contracted position provided protection from lower demand and reduction in ROC(6) prices
    • Includes £46 million from discontinued gas (2019: £39 million)
Water cooling tower at Drax Power Station

Water cooling tower at Drax Power Station [click to view/download]

  • System support (balancing mechanism, Ancillary Services and optimisation) of £118 million (2019: £120 million)
    • Hydro and gas – one-off hydro contracts in 2019, offset by higher demand for system support services in 2020
    • Lower level of biomass activity due to higher value in generation market
    • 2019 included benefit of buying back coal generation
  • Pumped storage / hydro – excellent operational and system support performance
    • £73 million of Adjusted EBITDA (Cruachan, Lanark Galloway schemes and Daldowie) (2019: £71 million)
Aqueduct supplying water into the reservoir at Cruachan pumped hydro storage plant in Scotland

Aqueduct supplying water into the reservoir at Cruachan pumped hydro storage plant in Scotland [click to view/download]

  • Coal – 8% of output in 2020 and short-term increase in carbon emissions – utilisation of coal stock by March 2021
  • Covid-19 – business continuity plan in place to ensure continued operation and two major outages completed

Customers – managing the impact of Covid-19 on SME customers

  • Customer service employeeAdjusted EBITDA loss of £39 million (2019: £17 million profit) inclusive of estimated £60 million impact of Covid-19
    • Reduced demand, MtM loss on pre-purchased power and increase in bad debt, principally SME customers
    • Continue to evaluate SME options to maximise value and alignment with strategy
  • Development of Drax Customers Industrial & Commercial portfolio – increased sales to high-quality counterparties providing revenue visibility, while supporting the Group’s flexible and renewable energy proposition
  • Renewable and energy services expand Group system support capability and customer sustainability objectives

Other financial information

  • Total operating loss from continuing operations of £156 million reflects:
    • £70 million MtM loss on derivative contracts
    • £239 million obsolescence charges, principally coal (includes £13 million associated with decision not to develop new gas generation at Drax Power Station)
    • £34 million of costs associated with coal closure (redundancy, pensions and site reparations), with annual run-rate savings once complete of c.£30-35 million
  • Total loss after tax of £158 million includes £18 million reduced valuation of deferred tax asset resulting from UK Government’s reversal of previously announced corporation tax rate change (adjusted impact of £14 million, 3.5 pence per share)
  • Capital investment of £183 million(7) – continued invest in biomass strategy, some delay into 2021 due to Covid-19
    • 2021 expected investment of £190-210 million (excludes proposed acquisition of Pinnacle), includes expansion of LaSalle and Amite pellet plants and satellite plant development
  • Net debt of £776 million, including cash and cash equivalents of £290 million (31 December 2019: £404 million)
      • 1.9 x net debt to EBITDA, with £682 million of total cash and total committed facilities
      • Expect around 2 x net debt to EBITDA by end of 2022 inclusive of proposed acquisition of Pinnacle

 


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Proposed Acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. – a major international supplier of sustainable biomass

This announcement contains inside information

RNS Number: 2805O
Drax Group PLC
(“Drax”, “the Group”, “Drax Group”, “the Company”; Symbol: DRX)

Drax is pleased to announce that it has signed an agreement (the “Acquisition Agreement”) with Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. (PL.TO) (“Pinnacle”), providing for the acquisition by Drax Canadian Holdings Inc., an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Drax, of the entire issued share capital of Pinnacle (the “Acquisition”). The Acquisition will be implemented by way of a statutory plan of arrangement in accordance with the laws of the Province of British Columbia, Canada, at a price of C$11.30 per share (representing a premium of 13% based on the closing market price as at 5 February of C$10.04 per share and valuing the fully diluted equity of Pinnacle at C$385 million (£226 million(1)), with an implied enterprise value of C$741 million, including C$356 million of net debt(2)). The Acquisition, which remains subject to Drax and Pinnacle shareholder approval, court approval, regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of certain other customary conditions, has been unanimously recommended by the board of Pinnacle and has the full support of Pinnacle’s major shareholder, affiliates of ONCAP (which, together hold shares representing approximately 31% of Pinnacle’s shares as at 5 February 2021). Completion is expected to occur in the second or third quarter of 2021.

The Board believes that the Acquisition advances Drax’s biomass strategy by more than doubling its biomass production capacity, significantly reducing its cost of biomass production and adding a major biomass supply business underpinned by long-term contracts with high-quality Asian and European counterparties. The Acquisition positions Drax as the world’s leading sustainable biomass generation and supply business alongside the continued development of Drax’s ambition to be a carbon negative company by 2030, using Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

Highlights

  • Compelling opportunity to advance Drax biomass strategy
    • Adds 2.9 million tonnes of biomass production capacity
    • Significantly reduces Drax average cost of production(3)
  • Increased global reach and presence in third-party markets
    • C$6.7 billion of contracted sales to counterparties in Asia and Europe
    • 99% of capacity contracted through to 2026, significant volumes contracted post 2027
  • Strong return on investment
    • Cash generative with 2022 EBITDA consensus of C$99 million
    • Expected returns significantly ahead of Drax’s WACC
    • Funded from cash and existing agreements
  • Reinforces sustainable and growing dividend

The world’s leading sustainable biomass generation and supply business

  • Drax and Pinnacle combined
    • 17 pellets plants, three major fibre baskets, four deep water ports
    • 4.9Mt capacity from 2022 – 2.9Mt available for self-supply
    • 2.6GW of renewable biomass generation, with potential for BECCS
  • Global growth opportunities for sustainable biomass

Commenting on today’s announcement Will Gardiner, Chief Executive Officer of Drax, said:

“I am excited about this deal which positions Drax as the world’s leading sustainable biomass generation and supply business, progressing our strategy to increase our self-supply, reduce our biomass production cost and create a long-term future for sustainable biomass.

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner in the control room at Drax Power Station [Click to view/download]

“We expect to benefit greatly from Pinnacle’s operational and commercial expertise, and I am looking forward to what we can achieve together.

“It will pave the way for our plans to use Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), and become a carbon negative company by 2030 – permanently removing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. Negative emissions from BECCS are vital if we are to address the global climate emergency whilst also providing renewable electricity needed in a net zero economy, supporting jobs and clean growth in a post-COVID recovery.”

Duncan Davies, Chief Executive Officer of Pinnacle, said:

“Pinnacle’s Board of Directors has unanimously determined that the transaction represents the best course of action for the company and its shareholders. On closing, the transaction will deliver immediate, significant and certain cash value to our shareholders. At the same time, the combination of Pinnacle and Drax will create a global leader in sustainable biomass with the vision, technical expertise and financial strength to help meet the growing demand for renewable energy products, which is exciting for our employees, customers and others around the world.”

Drax’s sustainable biomass strategy

Sustainable biomass has an important role to play in global energy markets as a flexible and sustainable source of renewable energy, as well as having the potential to deliver negative emissions. Drax believes that the Acquisition accelerates the Group’s strategic objectives to increase its available self-supply of sustainable biomass to five million tonnes per annum (Drax currently operates 1.6 million tonnes of capacity with 0.4 million tonnes in development) and reduce the cost of biomass to £50/MWh(4) by 2027. Through the delivery of these strategic objectives Drax aims to create a long-term future for sustainable biomass, including third-party supply, BECCS and merchant biomass generation.

Employee at Morehouse BioEnergy in Louisiana

Employee at Morehouse BioEnergy in Louisiana

The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022 (increasing to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027). Drax aims to increase the level of third-party sales and further expand its capacity to meet its target of five million tonnes of self-supply by 2027.

Drax believes that the Acquisition is highly complementary to the Group’s other long-term strategic options for biomass. Once optimised, the enlarged group’s biomass supply chain will support Drax’s own generation requirements, including the potential development of BECCS, whilst also serving the growing biomass markets in Europe and Asia via long-term off-take agreements.

A major producer and supplier of good-quality, low-cost sustainable biomass

Pinnacle, which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, operates 2.5 million tonnes of biomass capacity at sites in Western Canada and the Southeastern US, with a further 0.4 million tonnes of capacity in development (commissioning in 2021). Investment in this new capacity is expected to be substantially complete in the first half of 2021. Once the new capacity is commissioned, Pinnacle’s nameplate production capacity is expected to increase to 2.9 million tonnes per annum.

Pinnacle has ownership of c.80% of this nameplate capacity, with the remaining c.20% co-owned with its forestry industry joint venture partners, ensuring strong commercial relationships and shared interests in security of supply. Pinnacle has sales and marketing rights to 100% of the output from all sites.

Pinnacle is a key supplier of wood pellets for Drax and other third parties in Asia and Europe, with C$6.7 billion of contracted third-party sales (including sales to Drax).

Westview terminal, Canada

Wood pellets loaded onto vessel at Westview Terminal, British Columbia

Through scale, operational efficiency and low-cost fibre sourcing, Pinnacle is currently produces biomass at a lower cost than Drax, with a like-for-like 2019 production cost of US$124/tonne(3), compared to Drax’s 2019 production cost of US$161/tonne(3). The pro forma 2019 production cost for the combined business is US$141/tonne.

Pinnacle’s lower cost partially reflects the use of high levels of low-cost sawmill residues. British Columbia has a large and well-established commercial forestry industry, which has in recent years seen increased harvest levels, in part associated with management of a pine beetle infestation, producing good levels of residue material availability for the production of biomass. This infestation has now run its course and alongside other influences on the forest landscape, including wild-fire, is resulting in a reduction in the annual harvest and sawmill closures. The industry is adjusting to this with some production curtailment as well as developing approaches to fibre recovery and use which is expected to result in some increase in fibre costs.

Since 2017, the Sustainable Biomass Program has conducted annual audits of each of Pinnacle’s operational sites, allowing Drax to ensure, through its diligence, that the material that it purchases from Pinnacle is in line with its sustainability standards.

Drax is committed to ensuring best practice in health and safety, operational efficiency and sustainability across the enlarged group and intends to invest accordingly to deliver this outcome.

Drax is committed to ensuring that its biomass sources are compliant with Drax’s well-established responsible sourcing policy and Drax expects to invest in, adapt and develop sourcing practices to ensure compliance with Drax’s policies to deliver both Drax’s biomass strategy and positive forest outcomes.

A large and geographically diversified asset base

Pinnacle has ownership interests in ten operational plants and one in development (commissioning 2021), six of which are operated through joint venture arrangements, providing access to nameplate production capacity of 2.9 million tonnes per annum.

Seven of Pinnacle’s sites are in British Columbia (1.6 million tonne nameplate capacity) and two are in Alberta (0.6 million tonne nameplate capacity). All of these sites have rail lines to ports at either Prince Rupert or Vancouver, both accessing the Pacific Ocean, providing routes to Asian and European markets.

Pinnacle also operates a US hub at Aliceville, Alabama (0.3 million tonne nameplate capacity) and is developing a second site in Demopolis, Alabama (0.4 million tonne nameplate capacity), which Pinnacle expects to commission in 2021. Pinnacle’s total operational and development nameplate capacity in the US is 0.7 million tonnes.

Pinnacle’s US sites are close to Drax’s existing operations in the Southeastern US and will utilise river barges to access the Port of Mobile and barge-to-ship loading, reducing fixed port storage costs.

Forest in LaSalle catchment area

Working forest in LaSalle BioEnergy catchment area, Louisiana

All production sites are located in areas with access to fibre and are able to operate with a range of biomass material from existing commercial forestry activities, including sawmill residues, pre-commercial thinnings and low-grade wood. Combined with a geographic spread of production capacity and access to three separate export facilities, Pinnacle benefits from operational and sourcing flexibility, further enhancing Drax’s security of supply.

Further information is set out in Appendix 1 to this announcement.

Long-term biomass revenues with access to Asian and European markets

Pinnacle has contracted sales of C$6.7 billion, with high-quality Asian and European counterparties (including Drax). This equates to 99% of its current production capacity contracted to third parties through 2026 and a significant volume contracted in 2027 and beyond, providing long-term high-quality revenues.

Vessel carrying biomass pellets at Westview Terminal, British Columbia

Pinnacle has been supplying biomass to Europe since 2004. The location of the majority of Pinnacle’s production capacity in Western Canada, with access to the Pacific Ocean, provides a strong position from which to serve the growing demand for biomass in Asian markets. In 2018 and 2019, Pinnacle entered into 12 new long-term contracts in Japan and South Korea, totalling over 1.3 million tonnes per annum, valued at C$4.6 billion, with most contracts commencing between 2021 and 2023. The average contract duration is nine years, with certain contracts extending significantly beyond this point. Contracts typically operate on a take-or-pay basis.

Global growth opportunities for sustainable biomass

The global biomass wood pellet market has a broad range of providers that are expected to expand their production capacity, including operators such as Enviva, Graanul Invest, Pinnacle, An Viet Phat, Fram and SY Energy.

The market for biomass wood pellets for renewable generation in Europe and Asia is expected to grow in the current decade, principally driven by Asian demand(5). Drax believes that increasingly ambitious global decarbonisation targets, the need for negative emissions and an improved understanding of the role that sustainably sourced biomass can play will result in continued robust demand.

Aerial photo of biomass storage domes, Drax Power Station

Train pulling biomass wagons, storage domes and wood pellet conveyor system Drax Power Station, North Yorkshire

As a vertically integrated producer and consumer of sustainable biomass Drax is differentiated from its peers and well positioned to deliver supply chain efficiencies and an expanded range of sustainable biomass materials for own-use and third-party sales.

Through its expanding lower cost supply chain, expertise in biomass generation and enhanced global footprint, Drax believes that there will be opportunities to work with other companies and countries in developing their own biomass-enabled decarbonisation strategies.

Strong return on investment

The Acquisition is expected to be cash generative and represent an attractive opportunity to create significant value for shareholders, with expected returns significantly in excess of the Group’s weighted average cost of capital.

The addition of long-term contracts with high-quality counterparties in growing international biomass markets will reduce the Group’s relative exposure to commodity prices, in line with the Group’s objective to improve earnings quality and visibility.

In total, the Acquisition increases access to lower cost biomass by a further 2.9 million tonnes after the commissioning of the Demopolis plant in 2021. The price paid for this capacity is consistent with the previously outlined strategy to invest in the region of c.£600 million to deliver Drax’s plans for five million tonnes of self-supply capacity and a biomass cost of £50/MWh by 2027.

For the year ended 27 December 2019, Pinnacle generated Adjusted EBITDA(6) of C$47 million from pellet sales of 1.7 million tonnes.

Pinnacle’s 2019 performance was impacted by fire at its Entwistle plant, reduced rail access due to rail industrial action and weather disrupted forestry activity. At the same time Pinnacle experienced regional Canadian sawmill closures, resulting in some reduction in sawmill residues and an increase in provincial fibre prices.

Fibre diversification and the development of a second hub in the Southeastern US is expected to partially mitigate the risk of fibre price rises.

Taking these factors into account, alongside the commissioning of new capacity and the commencement of Asian supply contracts, Pinnacle’s 2022 consensus EBITDA is C$99 million, increasing to C$126 million in 2023 (Bloomberg).

The Acquisition strengthens the Group’s ability to pay a sustainable and growing dividend. Drax does not expect the Acquisition to have any impact on its expectations for the final dividend payment for 2020.

Financing the Acquisition

The Acquisition is expected to be funded from cash and existing agreements. On 15 December 2020 the Group issued a trading update which noted cash and total committed liquidity of £643 million at 30 November 2020. Following the completion, on 31 January 2021, of the sale of four gas power stations, previously announced on 15 December 2020, the Group received cash of £188 million, being the agreed purchase price consideration of £164 million and £24 million of customary working capital adjustments.

Net debt to Adjusted EBITDA(7) in 2021 is expected to be above Drax’s long-term target of around 2 times immediately after completion of the Acquisition but is expected to return to around this level by the end of 2022.

Management of foreign exchange exposure

The Acquisition price will be paid in Canadian dollars. Pinnacle’s existing contracts with Drax and third parties are denominated in Canadian and US dollars and Drax expects to manage any exposure within its foreign exchange processes.

Drax’s policy is to hedge its foreign currency exposure on contracted biomass volumes over a rolling five-year period. This has given rise to an average foreign exchange rate hedge around 1.40 (US$/GBP£).

Sustainable sourcing

Sustainably sourced biomass is an important part of UK and European renewable energy policy. The renewable status of sustainably sourced biomass is based on well-established scientific principles set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and reflected in the European Union’s (EU) second Renewable Energy Directive and the UK Renewables Obligation.

Drax maintains a rigorous approach to biomass sustainability, ensuring the wood fibre it uses is fully compliant with the UK’s mandatory standards as well as those of the EU.

British Columbia, near Barriere, North Thompson River, aspen trees, dead pine trees behind infected with pine bark beetle (aka mountain pine beetle)

Dead pine trees in background, infected with mountain pine beetle, British Columbia

Drax recognises that the forest landscape in British Columbia and Alberta is different to commercially managed forests in the Southeastern US. Working in partnership with eNGO Earthworm, Drax has a good understanding of the considerations associated with sourcing residues from harvesting of primary forest and the particular characteristics of the forests in British Columbia and Alberta. In line with its responsible sourcing policy, Drax will work closely with eNGO partners, Indigenous First Nation communities and other stakeholders, and invest to deliver good environmental, social and climate outcomes in Pinnacle’s sourcing areas.

Operational efficiencies, improvements and savings

The strong financial returns associated with the Acquisition are not dependent on synergy benefits, but the Group has identified areas for potential operational improvements and efficiencies, and opportunities to invest across the supply chain to achieve consistent standards and improve outputs across the enlarged group.

Portfolio optimisation

Drax aims to leverage Pinnacle’s trading capability across its expanded portfolio. Drax believes that the enlarged supply chain will provide greater opportunities to optimise the supply of biomass from its own assets and third-party suppliers.

With existing plans to widen of the Group’s sustainable biomass fuel mix to include a wider range of lower cost sustainable biomass materials, Drax expects to create further opportunities to optimise fuel cargos for own use and third-party supply.

Logistics optimisation

Drax believes that the transport and shipping requirements of the enlarged group will provide greater opportunities to optimise logistics, with delivery of cargos to a counterparty’s closest port, reducing distance, time, carbon footprint and cost.

Enhanced security of supply

Control of Drax’s biomass supply chain, with geographically diverse production and export facilities, is expected to enhance security of supply, further mitigating the risk of supply interruptions thereby resulting in improved reliability and a reduced risk of supply interruption.

Combined expertise

Drax believes that there will be opportunities to share best practice and drive improved production performance across the enlarged group by leveraging combined expertise in the production of good-quality, low-cost pellets across the enlarged supply chain.

Drax also expects to leverage Pinnacle’s experience in developing and managing third-party off-take agreements alongside its existing commercial and trading capabilities to develop new agreements for supply to third-parties.

Stronger counterparty credit

Drax has a stronger credit rating, which could enable Pinnacle to develop its supply capability and contracts in Asian and European markets beyond its current position.

Reduced cost of debt

Drax’s average cost of debt is lower than Pinnacle’s giving rise to potential future savings.

Corporate cost savings

Drax expects to derive typical corporate cost savings associated with the Acquisition and delisting from the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Shareholder approvals

The Acquisition constitutes a Class 1 transaction under the Listing Rules. As a consequence, completion of the Acquisition is conditional on the Acquisition receiving the approval of Drax shareholders. A combined shareholder circular and notice of general meeting will be posted to shareholders as soon as practicable.

Among other things, the Acquisition is also conditional upon the approval of the Acquisition by Pinnacle’s shareholders, the approval of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, certain antitrust and other regulatory approvals other customary conditions.

A summary of the terms of the Acquisition Agreement is set out in Appendix 2 to this announcement.

Drax’s board has unanimously recommended that Drax’s shareholders vote in favour of the Acquisition, as each of the Drax directors that hold shares in Drax shall do in respect of their own beneficial holdings of Drax’s shares, representing approximately 0.17 per cent. of the existing share capital of Drax as at 5 February 2021, being the last business day prior to the date of this announcement.

Pinnacle’s board has unanimously recommended that Pinnacle’s shareholders vote in favour of the Acquisition at the Pinnacle General Meeting, as the Pinnacle directors (and certain current and former members of Pinnacle management that hold shares in Pinnacle) shall do in respect of their own beneficial holdings of Pinnacle’s shares, representing approximately 4.75 per cent. of the existing share capital of Pinnacle as at 5 February 2021, being the last business day prior to the date of this announcement.

In addition to the irrevocable undertakings from Pinnacle directors described above, Drax has also received an irrevocable undertaking from affiliates of ONCAP (which, together, hold shares representing approximately 31% of Pinnacle’s shares as at 5 February 2021 (being the last business day prior to the date of this announcement)) to vote in favour of the Acquisition at Pinnacle’s General Meeting.

Other

Drax issued a trading update on 15 December 2020 outlining its expectations for 2020 and expects to announce its full year results for the year ended 31 December 2020 on 25 February 2021.

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations: Mark Strafford
+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media:

Drax External Communications: Ali Lewis
+44 (0) 7712 670 888 

Royal Bank of Canada (Financial Adviser and Joint Corporate Broker):

+44 (0) 20 7653 4000
Peter Buzzi
Mark Rushton
Evgeni Jordanov
Jonathan Hardy
Jack Wood

Acquisition presentation meeting and webcast arrangements

Management will host a webcast for analysts and investors at 9:30am (UK Time), Monday 8 February 2021.

The webcast can be accessed remotely via a live webcast link, as detailed below. After the meeting, the webcast recording will be made available and access details of this recording are also set out below.

A copy of the presentation will be made available from 7am (UK time) on 8 February 2021 for download at: https://www.drax.com/northamerica/investors/results-reports-agm/#investor-relations-presentations

Event Title:
Drax Group plc: Proposed Acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc

Event Date:
9:30am (UK time), Monday 08 February 2021

Webcast Live Event Link:
https://secure.emincote.com/client/drax/drax010

Start Date:
9:30am (UK time), Monday 08 February 2021

Delete Date:
Monday 27 December 2021

Archive Link:
https://secure.emincote.com/client/drax/drax010

Important notice

The contents of this announcement have been prepared by and are the sole responsibility of Drax Group plc (the “Company”).

RBC Europe Limited (“RBC”), which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (the “PRA”) and regulated in the United Kingdom by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) and the PRA, is acting exclusively for the Company and for no one else in connection with the Acquisition, the content of this announcement and other matters described in this announcement and will not regard any other person as its clients in relation to the Acquisition, the content of this announcement and other matters described in this announcement and will not be responsible to anyone other than the Company for providing the protections afforded to its clients nor for providing advice to any other person in relation to the Acquisition, the content of this announcement or any other matters referred to in this announcement.

This announcement does not constitute or form part of any offer or invitation to sell or issue, or any solicitation of any offer to purchase or subscribe for, any shares in the Company or in any entity discussed herein, in any jurisdiction nor shall it or any part of it nor the fact of its distribution form the basis of, or be relied on in connection with, any contract commitment or investment decision in relation thereto nor does it constitute a recommendation regarding the securities of the Company or of any entity discussed herein.

RBC and its affiliates do not accept any responsibility or liability whatsoever and make no representations or warranties, express or implied, in relation to the contents of this announcement, including its accuracy, fairness, sufficient, completeness or verification or for any other statement made or purported to be made by it, or on its behalf, in connection with the Acquisition and nothing in this announcement is, or shall be relied upon as, a promise or representation in this respect, whether as to the past or the future. RBC and its respective affiliates accordingly disclaim to the fullest extent permitted by law all and any responsibility and liability whether arising in tort, contract or otherwise which it might otherwise be found to have in respect of this announcement or any such statement.

Certain statements in this announcement may be forward-looking. Any forward-looking statements reflect the Company’s current view with respect to future events and are subject to risks relating to future events and other risks, uncertainties and assumptions relating to the Company and its group’s and/or, following completion, the enlarged group’s business, results of operations, financial position, liquidity, prospects, growth, strategies, integration of the business organisations and achievement of anticipated combination benefits in a timely manner. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in these forward looking statements are reasonable, it can give no assurance or guarantee that these expectations will prove to have been correct. Because these statements involve risks and uncertainties, actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward looking statements.

Each of the Company, RBC and their respective affiliates expressly disclaim any obligation or undertaking to supplement, amend, update, review or revise any of the forward looking statements made herein, except as required by law.

You are advised to read this announcement and any circular (if and when published) in their entirety for a further discussion of the factors that could affect the Company and its group and/or, following completion, the enlarged group’s future performance. In light of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, the events described in the forward-looking statements in this announcement may not occur.

Neither the content of the Company’s website (or any other website) nor any website accessible by hyperlinks on the Company’s website (or any other website) is incorporated in, or forms part of, this announcement.

Appendix 1

Pinnacle Production Capacity

PlantLocationStatusCommissioningNameplate Capacity (Mt)Pinnacle Ownership (%)
Williams LakeBC, CanadaOperational20040.2100%
HoustonBC, CanadaOperational20060.230%
ArmstrongBC, CanadaOperational20070.1100%
MeadowbankBC, CanadaOperational20080.2100%
Burns LakeBC, CanadaOperational20110.4100%
LavingtonBC, CanadaOperational20150.375%
SmithersBC, CanadaOperational20180.170%
EntwistleAlberta, CanadaOperational20180.4100%
AlicevilleAlabama, USAOperational20180.370%
High LevelAlberta, CanadaOperational20200.250%
DemopolisAlabama, USADevelopmentEst. 20210.470%
Total2.980%

Capacity by fibre basket in 2021

LocationNameplate Capacity (Mt)Pinnacle Ownership (%)
BC, Canada1.684%
Alberta, Canada0.683%
Alabama, USA0.370%
Total2.582%

Capacity by fibre basket in 2022

LocationNameplate Capacity (Mt)Pinnacle Ownership (%)
BC, Canada1.684%
Alberta, Canada0.683%
Alabama, USA0.763%
Total2.981%

Across its business Pinnacle employs 485 employees, principally in the operation of its assets.

Appendix 2

Principal terms of the Acquisition Agreement

The following is a summary of the principal terms of the Acquisition Agreement.

Parties and consideration

The Acquisition Agreement was entered into on 7 February 2021 between Drax, Drax Canadian Holdings Inc., (an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Drax) (“Bidco”) and Pinnacle. Pursuant to the Acquisition Agreement, Bidco has agreed to acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares in Pinnacle and, immediately following completion, Pinnacle will be an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Drax. The Acquisition will be implemented by way of a statutory plan of arrangement in accordance with the laws of the Province of British Columbia, Canada.

Conditions

Completion under the Acquisition Agreement is subject to, and can only occur upon satisfaction or waiver of, a number of conditions, including:

(a) the approval of the Acquisition by Drax shareholders who together represent a simple majority of votes cast at a meeting of Drax shareholders;

(b) the approval of the Acquisition by Pinnacle shareholders who together represent not less than two-thirds of votes cast at a meeting of Pinnacle shareholders;

(c) an interim order providing for, among other things, the calling and holding of a meeting of Pinnacle shareholders and a final order to approve the Arrangement, each having been granted by the Supreme Court of British Columbia;

(d) no material adverse effect having occurred in respect of Pinnacle;

(e) in the event that the Competition and Markets Authority (the “CMA”) has requested submission of a merger notice or opened a merger investigation, the CMA having issued a decision that the Acquisition will not be subject to a Phase 2 reference or the period for the CMA considering a merger notice has expired without a Phase 2 reference having been made;

(f) either the receipt of an advance ruling certificate or both the expiry, termination or waiver of the applicable waiting period under the Competition Act (Canada) and, unless waived by Drax, receipt of a no-action letter in respect of the Acquisition from the Commissioner of Competition;

(g) the expiry or early termination of any applicable waiting period (and any extension of such period) applicable to the Acquisition under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (US); and

(h) the receipt a third party consent

In addition, Drax has the unilateral right not to complete the Acquisition where registered Pinnacle shareholders representing more than five per cent. of the outstanding share capital of Pinnacle duly exercise their dissent rights.

If any of the conditions are not satisfied (or waived) by 7 September 2021, either party can terminate the Acquisition Agreement.

Non-solicitation

Prior to obtaining approval from their respective shareholders in relation to the Acquisition, each of Drax and Pinnacle are prohibited from soliciting from any third party any acquisition proposal (relating to 20 per cent. or more of their shares or their group’s assets). However, if prior to obtaining Drax shareholder approval, Drax receives an unsolicited bona fide proposal in respect of 50 per cent. or more of its shares or all or substantially all of the assets of the Drax group and which the Drax board considers would result in a transaction that is more favourable to Drax shareholders from a financial perspective than the Acquisition (a “Drax Superior Proposal”), it may engage in discussions in relation to such Drax Superior Proposal in accordance with the terms of the Acquisition Agreement. Similarly, if prior to obtaining Pinnacle shareholder approval, Pinnacle receives an unsolicited bona fide proposal in respect of 100 per cent. of its shares or all or substantially all of the assets of the Pinnacle group and which the Pinnacle board considers would result in a transaction that is more favourable to Pinnacle shareholders from a financial perspective than the Acquisition (a “Pinnacle Superior Proposal”), it may engage in discussions in relation to such proposal in accordance with the terms of the Acquisition Agreement.

Termination fees payable to Pinnacle

Drax has agreed to pay a break fee of C$25 million to Pinnacle if the Acquisition Agreement is terminated as a result of:

(a) the Drax board withholding, withdrawing or adversely modifying its recommendation that Drax shareholders approve the Acquisition;

(b) the Drax board authorising Drax to enter into any definitive agreement (other than a confidentiality agreement) in respect of a Drax Superior Proposal;

(c) the Drax board terminating the Acquisition Agreement in response to any intervening event that was not known to the Drax board as of the date of the Acquisition Agreement;

(d) Drax breaching its non-solicitation obligations set out in the Acquisition Agreement; or

(e) completion not occurring by 7 September 2021 or a failure to obtain Drax shareholder approval and, in each case, an acquisition of 50 per cent. of Drax’s shares or assets (subject to certain exceptions) is is made or announced prior to the Drax shareholder approval having been obtained and any such acquisition is consummated (or a definitive agreement is entered into in respect of the same) within 12 months of termination.

In addition, Drax has agreed to pay Pinnacle an expense fee of C$5 million in the event that the Acquisition Agreement is terminated as a result of a failure to obtain Drax shareholder approval. The expense fee shall not be payable in the event that the break fee is also payable.

Termination fees payable to Drax

Pinnacle has agreed to pay a break fee of C$12.5 million to Drax if the Acquisition Agreement is terminated as a result of:

(a) the Pinnacle board withholding, withdrawing or adversely modifying its recommendation that Drax shareholders approve the Acquisition;

(b) the Pinnacle board authorising Pinnacle to enter into any definitive agreement (other than a confidentiality agreement) in respect of a Pinnacle Superior Proposal;

(c) the Pinnacle board terminating the Acquisition Agreement in response to any intervening event that was not known to the Pinnacle board as of the date of the Acquisition Agreement;

(d) Pinnacle breaching its non-solicitation obligations set out in the Acquisition Agreement; or

(e) completion not occurring by 7 September 2021 or a failure to obtain Pinnacle shareholder approval and, in each case, an acquisition of 50 per cent. of Pinnacle’s shares or assets (subject to certain exceptions) is made or announced prior to the Drax shareholder approval having been obtained and any such acquisition is consummated (or a definitive agreement is entered into in respect of the same) within 12 months of termination.

A net zero UK will be good for people and the planet

Peak district walker

For the UK to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 and do its part in tackling the biggest challenge of our time, all sectors of the economy must reduce their emissions and do it quickly.

I believe the best approach to tackling climate change is through ‘co-benefit’ solutions: solutions that not only have a positive environmental impact, but that are economically progressive for society today and in the future through training, skills and job creation.

As an energy company, this task is especially important for Drax. We have a responsibility to future generations to innovate and use our engineering skills to deliver power that’s renewable, sustainable and that doesn’t come at a cost to the environment.

Our work on Zero Carbon Humber, in partnership with 11 other forward-thinking organisations, aims to deploy the negative emissions technology BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), as well as CCUS (carbon capture, usage and storage) in industry and power, and ramp up hydrogen production as a low carbon fuel. These are all essential technologies in bringing the UK to net zero, but they are also innovative projects at scale that can benefit society and the lives of people in the Humber, and around the UK.

New jobs in a new sector

The Humber region has a proud history in heavy industries. What began as a thriving ship building hub has evolved to include chemicals, refining and steel manufacturing. However, these emissions-intensive industries have grown increasingly expensive to operate and many have left for countries where they can be run cheaper, leading to a decline in the Humber region.

If they are not decarbonised, these industries will face an even greater cost. By 2040, emitters could face billions of pounds per year in carbon taxes, making them less competitive and less attractive for international investment.

Deploying carbon capture and hydrogen are essential steps towards modernising these businesses and protecting up to 55,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in the region.

Capturing carbon at Drax: Delivering jobs, clean growth and levelling up the Humber. Click to view executive summary and case studies from Vivid Economics report for Drax.

A report by Vivid Economics commissioned by Drax, found that carbon capture and hydrogen in the Humber could create and support almost 48,000 new jobs at the peak of the construction period in 2027 and provide thousands of long term, skilled jobs in the following decades.

As well as protecting people’s livelihoods, decarbonisation is also a matter of public health. In the Humber alone, higher air quality could save £148 million in avoided public health costs between 2040 and 2050.

I believe the UK is well position to rise to the challenge and lead the world in decarbonisation technology. There is a clear opportunity to export knowledge and skills to other countries embarking on their own decarbonisation journeys. BECCS alone could create many more jobs related to exporting the technology and operational know-how and deliver additional value for the economy. As interest in negative emissions grows around the world, the UK needs to move quickly to secure a competitive advantage.

A fairer economy

This is in many ways the start of a new sector in our economy – one that can offer new employment, earnings and economic growth. It comes at just the right time. Without intervention to spur a green recovery, the COVID-19 crisis risks subjecting long-term economic damage.

Being at the beginning of the industrial decarbonisation journey means we also have the power to shape this new industry in a way that spreads the benefits across the whole of the UK.

We’ve previously seen sector deals struck between the government and industry include equality measures. For example, the nuclear industry aims to count women as 40% of its employees by 2030, while offshore wind is committed to sourcing 60% of its supply chain from the UK.

Wind turbines at Bridlington, East Yorkshire

At present, the Humber region receives among the lowest levels of government investment in research and development in the UK, contributing to a pronounced skills gap among the workforce. In addition, almost 60% of construction workers across the wider Yorkshire and Humber region were furloughed as of August 2020.

A project such as Zero Carbon Humber could address this regional imbalance and offer skilled, long term jobs to local communities. That’s why I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of £1bn investment to support the establishment of CCUS in the Humber and other ‘SuperPlaces’ around the UK.

As the Government’s Ten Point Plan says, CCUS can ‘help decarbonise our most challenging sectors, provide low carbon power and a pathway to negative emissions’. 

Healthier forests

The co-benefits of BECCS extend beyond our communities in the UK. We aim to become carbon negative by 2030 by removing our CO2 emissions from the atmosphere and abating emissions that might still exist on the UK’s path to net zero.

Background. Fir tree branch with dew drops on a blurred background of sunlight

This ambition will only be realised if the biomass we use continues to be sourced from sustainable forests that positively benefit the environment and the communities in which we and our suppliers operate.

Engineer working in turbine hall, Drax Power Station, North Yorkshire

Engineer working in turbine hall, Drax Power Station, North Yorkshire

I believe we must continuously improve our sustainability policy and seek to update it as new findings come to light. We can help ensure the UK’s biomass sourcing is led by the latest science, best practice and transparency, supporting healthy, biodiverse forests around the world; and even apply it internationally.

Global leadership

Delivering deep decarbonisation for the UK will require collaboration from industries, government and society. What we can achieve through large-scale projects like Zero Carbon Humber is more than just the vital issue of reduced emissions. It is also about creating jobs, protecting health and improving livelihoods.

These are more than just benefits, they are the makings of a future filled with opportunity for the Humber and for the UK’s Green Industrial Revolution.

By implementing the Ten Point Plan and publishing its National Determined Contributions (NDCs) ahead of COP26 in Glasgow next year, the UK continues to be an example to the world on climate action.

Half year results for the six months ended 30 June 2020

LaSalle BioEnergy (centre) and co-located sawmill (right), Louisiana

RNS Number : 3978U
Drax Group PLC (Symbol: DRX)

Six months ended 30 JuneH1 2020H1 2019
Key financial performance measures
Adjusted EBITDA (£ million) (1)(2)179138
Cash generated from operations (£ million)226229
Net debt (£ million) (3)792924
Interim dividend (pence per share)6.86.4
Adjusted basic earnings per share (pence) (1)10.82
Total financial performance measures
Coal obsolescence charges-224-
Operating (loss) / profit (£ million)-3234
(Loss) / profit before tax (£ million)-614
Basic (loss) / earnings per share (pence)-141

Financial highlights

  • Group Adjusted EBITDA up 30% to £179 million (H1 2019: £138 million)
    • Includes estimated £44 million impact of Covid-19, principally in Customers SME business
    • £34 million of capacity payments (H1 2019: nil) following re-establishment of the Capacity Market
    • Strong biomass performance in both Pellet Production and Generation
  • Strong cash generation and balance sheet
    • £694 million of cash and total committed facilities
    • Extended £125 million ESG CO2 emission-linked facility to 2025
    • DBRS investment grade rating
  • Sustainable and growing dividend
    • Expected full year dividend up 7.5% to 17.1 pence per share (2019: 15.9 pence per share), subject to good operational performance and impact of Covid-19 being in line with current expectations
    • Interim dividend of 6.8 pence per share (H1 2019: 6.4 pence per share) – 40% of full year
Biomass storage dome with conveyor in the foreground, Drax Power Station, North Yorkshire

Biomass storage dome with conveyor in the foreground, Drax Power Station, North Yorkshire [Click to view/download]

Operational highlights

  • Biomass self-supply – 9% reduction in cost, 15% increase in production and improved quality vs. H1 2019
  • Generation – 11% of UK’s renewable electricity, strong operational performance and system support services
  • Customers – lower demand and an increase in bad debt provisions, principally in SME business

Progressing plans to create a long-term future for sustainable biomass

  • Targeting five million tonnes of self-supply at £50/MWh(4) by 2027 from expanded sources of sustainable biomass
    • Plan for $64 million ($35/t, £13/MWh(4)) annual savings on 1.85Mt by 2022 vs. 2018 base
    • Investment in new satellite plants in US Gulf – targeting 20% reduction in pellet cost versus current cost
  • BECCS(5) – developing proven and emerging technology options for large-scale negative emissions
  • End of coal operations – further reduction in CO2 emissions and lower cost operating model for biomass

Outlook

  • Full year Adjusted EBITDA, inclusive of c.£60 million estimated impact of Covid-19, in line with market consensus
  • Evaluating attractive investment options for biomass growth: cost reduction and capacity expansion
  • Strong contracted power sales (2020–2022) 34TWh at £51.4/MWh and high proportion of non-commodity revenues

Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group said:

“With these robust half-year results, Drax is delivering for shareholders with an increased dividend while continuing to support our employees, communities and customers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner in the control room at Drax Power Station [Click to view/download]

“As well as generating the flexible, reliable and renewable electricity the UK economy needs, we’re delivering against our strategy to reduce the costs of our sustainable biomass and we’re continuing to make progress pioneering world-leading bioenergy with carbon capture technologies, known as BECCS, to deliver negative emissions and help the UK meet its 2050 net zero carbon target.

“National Grid stated this week that the UK can’t reach net zero by 2050 without negative emissions from bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. BECCS delivers for the environment and also provides an opportunity to create jobs and clean economic growth in the North and around the country.”

Operational review

Pellet Production – capacity expansion, improved quality and reduced cost

  • Adjusted EBITDA up 213% to £25 million (H1 2019: £8 million)
    • Pellet production up 15% to 0.75Mt (H1 2019: 0.65Mt) – impact of adverse weather in H1 2019
    • Cost of production down nine per cent to $154/t(6) (H1 2019: $170/t(6))
    • Reduction in fines (larger particle-sized dust) in each cargo
  • Cost reduction plan – targeting $64 million ($35/t, £13/MWh(4)) annual savings on 1.85Mt by 2022 vs. 2018 base
    • Expect to deliver $27 million of annual savings by end of 2020 – a saving of $18/t vs. 2018
    • Greater use of low-cost fibre, LaSalle (improved rail infrastructure, woodyard and sawmill co-location) and relocation of HQ from Atlanta to Monroe
    • Savings from projects to be delivered in 2020-2022
    • 35Mt capacity expansion (LaSalle, Morehouse and Amite), increased use of low-cost fibre, improved logistics and other operational enhancements
  • $40 million investment in three 40kt satellite plants in US Gulf – commissioning from 2021, potential for up to 0.5Mt
    • Use of Drax infrastructure and sawmill residues – targeting 20% reduction in pellet cost versus current cost
Power lines and pylon above Cruachan Power Station, viewed from Ben Cruachan above

Power lines and pylon above Cruachan Power Station, viewed from Ben Cruachan above [Click to view/download]

Power Generation – flexible, low-carbon and renewable generation

  • Adjusted EBITDA up 45% to £214 million (H1 2019: £148 million)
    • Limited impact from Covid-19 – strong contracted position provided protection from lower demand, reduction in ROC(7) prices offset by increased system support services
    • £34 million of Capacity Market income (H1 2019: nil; £36 million in relation to H1 2019 subsequently recognised in H2 2019 following re-establishment of the Capacity Market)
    • £54 million of Adjusted EBITDA from hydro and gas generation assets (H1 2019: £36 million)
    • System support (Balancing Market, ancillary services and portfolio optimisation) up 8% to £66 million (H1 2019: £61 million)
    • Good commercial availability across the portfolio – 91% (H1 2019: 87%)
  • Covid-19 – business continuity plan in place to ensure safe and uninterrupted operations
  • Biomass generation up 16% to 7.4TWh (H1 2019: 6.4TWh)
    • Strong supply chain (impact of adverse weather in H1 2019) and record CfD availability (Q2 2020 – 99.5%)
  • Pumped storage / hydro – excellent operational and system support performance
  • Gas – excellent operational and system support performance, Damhead Creek planned outage underway
  • Coal – 10% of output in H1 2020 – utilisation of coal stock before end of commercial generation (March 2021)

Customers – managing the impact of Covid-19 on SME business

  • Adjusted EBITDA loss of £37 million (H1 2019: £9 million profit) inclusive of estimated £44 million impact of Covid-19 – reduced demand, MtM loss on pre-purchased power and increase in bad debt, principally in SME business
  • Covid-19 – implemented work from home procedures to allow safe and continuous operations and customer support
  • Good performance in Industrial and Commercial market – new contracts with large water companies providing five-year revenue visibility, while supporting the Group’s flexible, renewable and low-carbon proposition
  • Monitoring and optimisation of portfolio to ensure alignment with strategy

Other financial information

  • Total financial performance measures reflects £108 million MtM gain on derivative contracts, £224 million coal obsolescence charges and £10 million impact (£6 million adjusted impact) from UK Government’s reversal of previously announced corporation tax rate reduction resulting in revaluation of deferred tax asset and increased current tax charge
    • Additional c.£25–£35 million for coal closure costs expected to be reported as exceptional item in H2 2020 when coal consultation process is further advanced
  • Capital investment – continuing to invest in biomass strategy, some delay in investment due to Covid-19
    • H1 2020: £78 million (H1 2019: £60 million)
    • Full year expected investment £190–£210 million (was £230–£250 million), includes 0.35Mt expansion of existing pellet plants and $20 million initial investment in satellite plants ($40 million in total)
  • Net debt of £792 million, including cash and cash equivalents of £482 million (31 December 2019: £404 million)
    • Remain on track for around 2.0x net debt to Adjusted EBITDA by end of 2020

View complete half year report

View analyst presentation

Listen to webcast

View/download main image. Caption: LaSalle BioEnergy (centre) and co-located sawmill (right), Louisiana


Robust trading and operational performance; 2020 Adjusted EBITDA currently in line with consensus; delivering for all stakeholders

Drax employee in PPE in front of biomass storage dome

RNS Number : 4161K
Drax Group plc
(“Drax” or the “Company”; Symbol: DRX)

Highlights

  • Robust trading and operational performance in first three months of 2020

  • Strong contracted forward power sales supporting 2020-21 earnings visibility

  • 2020 full year Adjusted EBITDA(1) currently in line with consensus(2) inclusive of £60 million estimated potential impact from Covid-19

  • Principally lower power demand and increased bad debt risk in Customers business

  • Lower ROC(3) recycle prices in Generation, partially offset by system support services

  • Strong balance sheet at 31 March 2020 – net debt: £818 million, available cash and committed cash facilities: £663 million

  • 2019 final dividend of 9.5 pence per share (£37 million) to be paid in respect of 2019 performance, as previously announced – subject to shareholder approval at AGM

  • Strategic focus remains on biomass supply chain expansion and cost reduction

Electricity pylon near Cruachan Power Station, Argyll and Bute

Electricity pylon near Cruachan Power Station, Argyll and Bute [Click to view/download]

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said:

“With our strong balance sheet, robust trading and operational performance, and resilient sustainable biomass supply chain, Drax is in a strong position to support its employees, business customers and communities during the Covid-19 crisis, while continuing to generate returns for shareholders.

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner in the control room at Drax Power Station. Click to view/download.

“As an important part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, we recognise our responsibility to support the country’s response to Covid-19. We have strong business continuity plans in place and are in close contact with the UK Government. Our dedicated teams across England, Scotland and Wales, supported by our US biomass colleagues and business partners, are working around the clock to generate and supply the flexible, low-carbon and renewable electricity the UK needs, not least to the 250,000 businesses, including care homes, hospitals and schools we supply.

“The Group is also providing support for communities and others affected by Covid-19.

“Nevertheless, it is still early in this pandemic. As Covid-19 continues to develop, we remain vigilant in looking to protect all our stakeholders and will report further if there are significant changes to our outlook for 2020.”

Trading, operational performance and outlook

The trading and operational performance of the Group has been robust in the first three months of 2020.

While the impact of Covid-19 is still unfolding, the Group’s expectations for 2020 Adjusted EBITDA are currently in line with consensus inclusive of an estimated potential impact from Covid-19 of £60 million, principally in relation to its Customers business.

Full year expectations for the Group remain underpinned by good operational availability for the remainder of 2020.

In the Customers business, the consequences of Covid-19 are only now starting to become visible. It is expected to result in reduced demand and a potential increase in bad debt, which represents a major sensitivity, particularly in the SME(4) market. As a result, Drax has significantly increased its expectation of potential customer business failures and higher bad debt.

Assuming the continued impact of Covid-19 throughout 2020, Drax now expects a full year Adjusted EBITDA loss for the Customers business. The Group will closely monitor the impact on the Customers business and update the market accordingly.

In Generation, the Group’s expectations for the full year reflect a reduction in ROC recycle prices resulting from reduced power demand. Drax expects to partially offset this through increased activity in system support services across its generation portfolio.

The performance of the Generation business is dependent on the continuation of biomass deliveries to Drax Power Station. Biomass generation is currently the most material area of activity for the Group and a protracted suspension of the supply chain could lead to lower levels of biomass generation, resulting in a reduction in the Group’s expectations for the full year. At present there has been no impact from Covid-19 and the Group has a good supply of biomass throughout the supply chain, which continues to be robust and functioning well.

Engineer climbs cooling tower at Drax Power Station

Engineer climbs cooling tower at Drax Power Station [Click to view/download]

Generation

During the first three months of 2020 Drax’s generation portfolio performed well with good asset availability and optimisation of generation underpinning a strong financial performance.

The business benefits from a strong forward power sales position through 2022 which, combined with index-linked renewable schemes and capacity payments, provides a high level of earnings visibility, helping to protect the business from the current weakness in UK power prices.

In response to Covid-19, Drax has implemented robust business continuity procedures across its sites to protect employees and contractors and ensure continued operation. In addition to operating strategically important infrastructure, the components of the Group’s UK supply chain are considered key sectors allowing continued operation.

The Group’s biomass supply chain has a high level of operational redundancy designed to mitigate any potential disruption. Drax sources biomass from suppliers across North America and Europe, including the Group’s own facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi. In the UK, Drax utilises dedicated port facilities at Hull, Immingham, Tyne and Liverpool, with a capacity of eleven million tonnes, providing supply chain capacity in excess of the Group’s annual biomass usage of over seven million tonnes.

Sustainable biomass wood pellets destined for Drax Power Station unloaded from the Zheng Zhi bulk carrier at ABP Immingham

Sustainable biomass wood pellets destined for Drax Power Station unloaded from the Zheng Zhi bulk carrier at ABP Immingham [Click to view/download]

Drax Power Station has 300,000 tonnes of biomass storage capacity. Taken together with volumes throughout its supply chain the Group currently has visibility of over one million tonnes of biomass in transit – enough to operate the CfD(5) unit on its own for over four months, subject to managing deliveries to Drax Power Station.

Biomass generation has performed well in the first three months of 2020. Whilst Covid-19 has not had any measurable impact on biomass generation to date, a sustained reduction in electricity demand could result in a reduction in ROC recycle prices in the current compliance period. The Group has adjusted its expectations for the full year but the precise impact will be dependent on the depth and duration of any reduction in demand. Drax expects to partially offset this through increased activity in system support services across its generation portfolio.

Engineer at Cruachan Power Station

Engineer at Cruachan Power Station [Click to view/download]

The Group’s hydro assets have performed well, particularly the pumped storage business, primarily driven by activity in the system support services market. As previously disclosed, Cruachan Pumped Storage Power Station was successful in a tender process run by the system operator to procure inertia and reactive power services. The contract is worth up to c.£5 million per year over six years and is expected to commence during the second quarter of 2020. This was the first tender of its kind and reflects the growing importance of system support services as the generation market becomes increasingly supplied by intermittent renewable power sources. The system operator is expected to conduct further tenders over the coming year.

Thermal generation is performing in line with Drax’s expectations.

Pellet Production

LaSalle BioEnergy wood pellet manufacturing plant in Louisiana

LaSalle BioEnergy wood pellet manufacturing plant in Louisiana [Click to view/download]

Pellet Production has performed well in the first three months of 2020.

At present there has been no disruption to production caused by Covid-19, although the State of Louisiana is experiencing a high number of cases. The semi-automated nature of the pellet production process limits the need for individuals to be in contact with each other and this has been enhanced by robust business continuity procedures to further reduce the risk to employees and contractors.

Drax continues to monitor developments closely and notes that energy, rail, port and forestry are designated key sectors in the USA allowing continued operation.

Customers

The Group’s Customers business, which sells power, gas and energy services to the I&C(6) and SME markets has seen a significant reduction in demand as a result of Covid-19. The Group has been working to assess the potential impact of this demand reduction, the increased risk of business failure and bad debt. The impact is expected to be most pronounced in the SME market, which represents c.30 percent of monthly billing. The impact is expected to be partially mitigated by credit insurance in respect of certain customers.

Balance sheet

At 31 December 2019 Drax had £404 million of cash, which increased to £454 million at 31 March 2020.

The Group’s plan for 2020 included capital investment of £230-£250 million, with half of this assigned to strategic investment in biomass expansion and cost reduction. Whilst the Group continues to see its biomass strategy as both a primary long and short-term source of value, Drax is reviewing the timing of its investment programme in 2020 and in the short-term investment is expected to be lower.

At 31 March 2020 net debt had reduced to £818m million and Drax continues to target around 2 x net debt to EBITDA for the full year.

The Group has available cash and committed facilities of £663 million including a cash line available within a £315 million Revolving Credit Facility (RCF), which is currently undrawn and matures in April 2021. The Group has an ESG facility with final maturity in 2022 and a £350m sterling bond which matures in 2022. The Group has a further $500 million fixed rate USD bond maturing in 2025 and infrastructure private placement loans maturing through 2024-2029.

The Group’s facilities include a maintenance covenant which, if triggered, requires a minimum EBITDA level requirement around 40% of 2020 current consensus Adjusted EBITDA. Customary covenants apply to all other facilities.

The Group’s rolling five-year foreign exchange hedge book continues to provide protection from the recent weakness in sterling to 2025. The Group actively manages risk limits with counterparties providing forward foreign exchange contracts and the current weakness in sterling has led to the rebasing of a number of contracts, resulting in the acceleration of cash flows from these contracts to the benefit of Drax.

Contracted power sales

As at 16 April 2020, the power sales contracted for 2020, 2021 and 2022 were as follows:

 202020212022
Power sales (TWh) comprising:16.79.64.3
– Fixed price power sales (TWh) 17.110.14.3
Of which CfD unit (TWh)3.8
At an average achieved price (£ per MWh)53.249.448
– Gas hedges (TWh)-0.4-0.5-
At an achieved price (pence per therm)1.732-

Merchant power prices remain an important part of the Group’s earnings, but by focusing on flexible, renewable and low-carbon generation, which includes index-linked renewable schemes, capacity payments and system support services, the impact of power prices has reduced.

Exposure to merchant power prices by generation asset class

  • Biomass CfD – power produced by this unit is remunerated based on an index-linked strike price and underpinned by a private law contract which runs until March 2027. At baseload the unit is expected to produce over 5TWh per year. The current strike price is c.£116/MWh and taken together with a biomass cost at or below c.£75/MWh gives a margin of over £40/MWh and an annual contribution to gross profit of over £200 million, with daily cash settlement in 30 days
  • Biomass ROC – ROC buyout prices are index-linked and extend to March 2027, acting as a premium on UK power prices. The buyout price for the current compliance period is £50.05 per ROC. Annual generation is in the region of 9-10 TWh, with the associated power sold up to two years forward, providing strong earnings visibility over the period 2020-21
  • Hydro – a small but profitable volume of merchant power generation (144MW) with zero fuel cost
  • Pumped storage – operates in the system support services market and carries little net exposure to merchant power prices
  • Coal – commercial generation will end in March 2021, ahead of which date Drax will utilise its residual coal stock to realise further cash flows
  • Gas – the Group’s mid-merit CCGT(7) assets have power forward sales for 2020. To the extent that gas prices continue to set the price of power, the clean spark spread from these assets is expected to be maintained at or around current levels in future periods
Engineer working in PPE at Rye House Power Station in Hertfordshire

Engineer working in PPE at Rye House Power Station in Hertfordshire [Click to view/download]

Investment in biomass to increase capacity and reduce cost

Biomass sustainability remains at the heart of the Group’s activities and building a long-term future for sustainable biomass remains the Group’s strategic objective. Drax remains focused on reducing biomass costs to a level which makes biomass generation in the UK economically viable when the existing renewable schemes end in 2027.

Innovation engineer looks up at flue gas desulphurisation unit. The massive pipe above him could be used to transport more than 90% of the carbon captured in the BECCS power generation process.

An engineer looks up at flue gas desulphurisation unit (FGD) at Drax Power Station. The massive pipe would transport flue gas from the Drax boilers to the carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant for CO2 removal of between 90-95%. [Click to view/download]

The Group is targeting five million tonnes of self-supply capacity by 2027 (1.5 million today, plus 0.35 million tonnes in development), with greater scope for operational leverage and cost reduction. These savings will be delivered through further optimisation of existing biomass operations, greater utilisation of low-cost wood residues and an expansion of the fuel envelope to incorporate other low-cost renewable fuels across its expanded self-supply chain. Drax remains alert to sector opportunities for organic and inorganic growth.

By 2027 these activities would enable Drax to develop a biomass generation business operating without the current renewable schemes and potentially the development of BECCS(8), subject to the right support from the UK Government. Drax notes the incremental progress and support announced for carbon capture and storage at the UK Government’s Budget in March 2020.

These efforts support the Group’s ambition to become a carbon negative company by 2030.

In addition, the Group is exploring options to service biomass demand in other markets – Europe, North America and Asia.

Capital allocation and dividend

The Group remains committed to its capital allocation policy established in 2017, through which it aims to maintain a strong balance sheet; invest in the core business; pay a sustainable and growing dividend and return surplus capital beyond investment requirements.

A final dividend of 9.5 pence per share in respect of 2019 performance was proposed at the 2019 Full Year Results on 27 February 2020 and, subject to shareholder approval at today’s Annual General Meeting, will be paid on 15 May 2020.

An interim dividend of 6.4 pence per share was paid in October 2019, making the total dividend in relation to 2019 performance 15.9 pence per share.

In determining the continued appropriateness of the dividend, the Board has considered a range of factors – trading performance, current liquidity, the outlook for the year in the context of Covid-19, as well as the steps being taken to support all stakeholders. The Board believes payment of the final dividend remains consistent with the Group’s commitment to stakeholders.

Drax will update on its expectations for the 2020 full year dividend at the 2020 interim results on 29 July 2020.

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations: Mark Strafford

+44 (0) 1757 612 491

Media:

Drax External Communications: Ali Lewis

+44 (0) 7712 670 888

Website: www.drax.com/northamerica

END

Annual General Meeting arrangements in response to COVID19

Sunset Cityscape of Northampton
RNS Number : 6996J
Drax Group PLC
(“Drax” or the “Company”; Symbol:DRX)
On Wednesday 18 March 2020, Drax posted the notice (‘Notice’) of its annual general meeting (‘AGM’) to be held at 11:30am on Wednesday 22 April 2020 at Grocer’s Hall, Princes Street, London, EC2R 8AD (‘Grocer’s Hall’).

On Monday 23 March 2020, the UK Government announced mandatory measures concerning social distancing to reduce the transmission risks of Covid19. These measures require people to stay at home other than for limited purposes and stop all gatherings of more than two people in public. As a result, it is now prohibited for the Company to hold its AGM in the normal way.

Revised Arrangements

The Company has been advised by Grocer’s Hall that the venue is presently closed. Given the prevailing restrictions, the Company has decided to make alternative arrangements in order to ensure the AGM can lawfully be held to consider the business as set out in the Notice.

Arrangements have been made by the Company to hold the AGM at an alternative venue and to ensure that the required quorum will attend the meeting, whilst also complying with the UK Government’s mandatory measures.  The new venue for the AGM will be 8-10, The Lakes, Northampton, NN4 7YD.

Voting Details

Shareholders are encouraged to submit their votes in respect of the business to be conducted at the AGM.

As physical attendance at the AGM is prohibited, holders of ordinary shares who wish to register their votes on the resolutions to be put to the AGM should do so by completing and signing the proxy form that accompanied the 2020 AGM Notice (or appoint a proxy electronically if their shares are held in CREST) in accordance with the instructions printed on the proxy form. Please ensure that your proxy form appoints the chair of the meeting as proxy, since no other proxies will be allowed to attend the meeting in person.

As an alternative to completing the hard-copy Proxy Form, you can appoint a proxy electronically by visiting www.sharevote.co.uk. You will need your Voting ID, Task ID and Shareholder Reference Number (this is the series of numbers printed on your Proxy Form). Alternatively, if you have already registered with Company’s registrar’s online portfolio service, Shareview, you can submit your Proxy Form at www.shareview.co.uk using your usual user ID and password. Full instructions are given on both websites. As mentioned above, please ensure that your proxy form appoints the chair of the meeting as proxy, since no other proxies will be allowed to attend the meeting in person.

Please return your forms as soon as possible and in any event prior to 11:30am on Monday 20 April 2020, (being not less than 48 hours before the time of the meeting).

For Share Incentive Plan (SIP) participants, a Form of Direction should be sent to the Trustee, Equiniti Share Plan Trustees Limited, at Aspect House, Spencer Road, Lancing, West Sussex BN99 6DA to arrive by no later than 11:30am on Friday 17 April 2020.

If you do not have a proxy form or a Form of Direction and believe that you should have one, or if you require additional forms or have any additional queries on voting, please contact our registrar using the details set out below:

Equiniti Limited, (‘Equiniti’) Proxy Department, Aspect House, Spencer Road, Lancing, West Sussex BN99 6DA.

Enquiries can also be made to Equiniti using their telephone helpline service on 0371 384 2030 from within the UK or +44 121 415 7047 from outside the UK. Lines are open from 8:30am to 5:30pm, Monday to Friday – excluding public holidays in England and Wales.

The Board believes the actions being taken in these exceptional circumstances are necessary in order to comply with the measures introduced to safeguard the wellbeing and health of everyone, including our shareholders, employees and members of the wider community, which has to be our first priority.

Shareholder Engagement

As outlined in our annual report we continually undertake engagement with Company stakeholders through various means. We are sorry that we cannot meet at the AGM, which routinely is one such important aspect of enabling discussions with shareholders. If shareholders have any questions about Drax Group plc, please contact us using the details which we maintain on our website via the link https://www.drax.com/northamerica/investors/investor-contacts/.

The details contained within this announcement have been mailed to shareholders and a copy is also available on the AGM and General Meeting section of our website https://www.drax.com/northamerica/investors/results-reports-agm/

Ends

Enquiries:

Group Company Secretary: Brett Gladden
[email protected]
+44 (0)7936 362586