From the Wires
Fiscal 2012: Valener's recurring income increases 14% and Gaz Métro expands its commercial offering
By: PR Newswire
Nov. 29, 2012 08:13 AM
MONTREAL, Nov. 29, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Valener Inc. (Valener) (TSX: VNR), the public investment vehicle in Gaz Métro Limited Partnership (Gaz Métro), is announcing today its financial results for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2012.
Excluding non-recurring items, Valener recorded net income attributable to common shareholders of $30.2 million ($0.81 per common share) for fiscal 2012 versus $26.5 million ($0.71 per common share) last year, a $3.7 million ($0.10 per share) increase that came mainly from the earnings generated by Central Vermont Public Service Corporation (CVPS) since its June 2012 acquisition by Gaz Métro.
Gaz Métro and wind power: Two strategic investments
"In accordance with its strategy, Valener has continued to support the growth of Gaz Métro, in which it holds a 29% interest, and the development of the Seigneurie de Beaupré wind power projects, in which it holds a 24.5% interest," said Pierre Monahan, Chairman of Valener's Board of Directors.
"During fiscal 2012, Valener participated in two subscriptions to Gaz Métro's capital for a total of $97 million as part of the financing of the CVPS acquisition and the development of the Kingdom Community Wind project in Vermont. Valener also invested more than $47 million to finance its share in the Seigneurie de Beaupré wind power projects," continued Mr. Monahan.
A significant diversification of Gaz Métro's energy offering
"In just a little over five years, Gaz Métro has gradually positioned itself in the electricity distribution segment in Vermont, having acquired Green Mountain Power in 2007 and Central Vermont Public Service in 2012. The merger of these two entities, on October 1, 2012, created a major new distributor, the new Green Mountain Power, which serves more than 70% of the Vermont electricity distribution market. Gaz Métro now operates in two major geographic areas, Quebec and Vermont, that share the same sustainable development values, and Vermont now accounts for approximately 41% of Gaz Métro's $5 billion in assets," said Sophie Brochu, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gaz Métro.
"Gaz Métro is following through on its commitment to reunite energy and environment, by leveraging its expertise as well as the strengths and advantages of natural gas in expanding its energy offering. To this end, Gaz Métro is involved in the development of the 341 MW and 63 MW wind power projects in Quebec and Vermont, respectively, in the deployment of natural gas as a fuel in the heavy transport industry, and in developing the use of biomethane—all promising markets with direct and immediate economic and environmental impacts," said Ms. Brochu.
Acquisition of CVPS by Gaz Métro and merger with Green Mountain Power Corporation (GMP)
On June 27, 2012, Gaz Métro, through its wholly owned subsidiary Northern New England Energy Corporation (NNEEC), acquired all the issued and outstanding shares of CVPS for a total net cash consideration of $513.5 million (US$500.7 million), $20.0 million of which was disbursed in fiscal 2011. Transaction-related costs recorded in the income statement stood at $7.8 million (net of income taxes) for fiscal 2012 and at $1.8 million in fiscal 2011. The preliminary purchase price allocation resulted in the recognition of $233.1 million in goodwill.
Gaz Métro financed the acquisition with 50/50 debt/equity. For the debt portion, Gaz Métro inc. (GMi) entered into a note purchase agreement with investors, by way of private placement, for a total capital amount of US$260.0 million. The notes (guaranteed by Gaz Métro) were issued on May 15, 2012 in two series of US$130.0 million each and the proceeds were loaned to Gaz Métro under similar conditions. These notes bear 3.86% and 5.06% annual interest and will mature 10 and 30 years following their issuance, respectively. For the equity portion, on June 28, 2012, Gaz Métro issued, by way of private placement, new units to its Partners, Valener and GMi, for total proceeds of $260.0 million.
On October 1, 2012, CVPS and GMP, wholly owned subsidiaries of NNEEC, merged to create a single Vermont-based utility. The new company, which kept the name GMP (GMP Combined), now serves more than 255,000 customers throughout the entire State of Vermont. According to the planned synergy-sharing mechanism, the merger will create considerable cost savings that will benefit both Vermont customers (US$144.0 million over 10 years) and GMP Combined. These savings will be achieved through a more efficient allocation of resources, equipment and facilities over a more contiguous service area, regulatory savings, and improved purchasing power with suppliers of products and services.
Seigneurie de Beaupré wind power projects: Second year of construction progressing as scheduled
Valener and Gaz Métro indirectly own interests of 24.5% and 25.5%, respectively, in the Seigneurie de Beaupré wind power projects developed jointly with Boralex Inc., which owns the other 50% (the consortium).
Wind power projects 2 and 3
Construction of wind power projects 2 and 3, for a total installed capacity of 272 megawatts, has progressed according to schedule, and the site is slated to shut down for the winter on December 14, 2012.
To date, 50 wind turbine towers have been erected, including 9 fully installed turbines, and over 101 km of the 114-km electrical collector system has been buried. All 115 km of the access roads and all of the foundations have been completed, as has most of the construction work on the substation and operations building.
Next year, the over 100 square-kilometre site will employ some 400 workers a day to erect the remaining 76 towers, install the blades and casings of the remaining 117 wind turbines, and bury the remainder of the collector system such that project start-up can proceed as planned for December 1, 2013.
These projects represent a total investment of approximately $750 million (including financing costs). As at September 30, 2012, the equity required under the financing terms had been fully subscribed by the consortium, and the amounts invested by Gaz Métro and Valener totalled $76.7 million.
Wind power project 4
Wind power project 4, which will also be developed on the private lands of Seigneurie de Beaupré represents a total investment of approximately $190 million (including financing costs) and will have a total installed capacity of 69 MW.
During fiscal 2012, steps were undertaken to obtain the requisite environmental approvals. In June 2012, public environment-related hearings were held by the relevant Quebec government agency, BAPE (Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement), and the final report was made public on November 16, 2012. The consortium has favourably received the BAPE's conclusion, which stipulates that wind power project 4 could be completed under certain conditions. Besides, the decree from the Quebec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks (Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs) is expected to be received in January 2013, which will constitute the final authorization required to begin the work. Operational start-up for wind power project 4 is scheduled for December 2014.
The consortium plans on completing most of the work on the road, foundation and collector system in fiscal 2013.
Subscription of Gaz Métro units and issuance of preferred shares
In fiscal 2012, Valener subscribed twice to Gaz Métro's capital, in proportion to its current interest in Gaz Métro, first on June 28, 2012 for $75.4 million, and then on September 28, 2012 for $21.8 million. These equity investments were made to finance a portion of the CVPS acquisition and the development of GMP's Kingdom Community Wind project in Vermont. Valener financed these investments using part of the net proceeds of the June 6 issuance of $100 million in Series A cumulative rate reset preferred shares.
Declaration of quarterly dividends on common and preferred shares
Valener's board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.25 per common share payable on January 15, 2013 to shareholders of record at the close of business on December 31, 2012. Valener expects to maintain the dividend at $0.25 per common share for each quarter of fiscal 2013.
Under Valener's dividend reinvestment plan, the board of directors approved the reinvestment of dividends into additional common shares, for the dividend payable on January 15, 2013, by way of an issuance of new common shares of Valener, at a 5% discount compared to the weighted average price for the five trading days immediately preceding the dividend payment date.
The board of directors also declared a quarterly dividend of $0.271875 per Series A preferred share for the period of October 16, 2012 to January 15, 2013, payable on January 15, 2013 to the shareholders of record at the close of business on January 9, 2013.
Valener's consolidated net income attributable to common shareholders, excluding the share in the non-recurring items of Gaz Métro, net of income taxes
(1) These measures are financial measures that are not defined in Canadian generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
Gaz Métro's results
Excluding non-recurring items, the net income attributable to the Partners of Gaz Métro totalled $151.6 million in fiscal 2012 compared to $147.5 million last year. The $4.1 million increase came partly from the income generated by CVPS since it was acquired in June 2012 and partly from the favourable parameters in GMP's 2012 rate case, mitigated by higher financial expenses on the additional financings for the CVPS acquisition and for GMP's Kingdom Community Wind (KCW) project and by the impact on net income from the sale of Aqua Data Inc. (Aqua Data) and of MTO Telecom Inc. (MTO) during fiscal 2011.
Results for natural gas distribution in Quebec (Gaz Métro-QDA)
For fiscal 2012, Gaz Métro-QDA's normalized natural gas deliveries totalled 5,419 million cubic metres, down 0.8% or 42 million cubic metres from 5,461 million cubic metres last year, as the decrease in normalized natural gas deliveries in fiscal 2012 was much less than had been anticipated in the 2012 rate case.
In the industrial market, natural gas deliveries were down 0.2% year over year, as there was less consumption in the pulp and paper sector. This decrease was partly offset by greater consumption in the metallurgical sector.
Normalized deliveries to the residential and commercial markets declined 0.5% and 2.0%, respectively, from fiscal 2011. These decreases were essentially due to slow economic growth combined with energy conservation measures undertaken by Gaz Métro-QDA's customers, partly offset by the maturation of new sales.
As for the number of customers, in fiscal 2012 Gaz Métro-QDA saw its customer base increase to 189,846, up 3.0% from 184,373 the previous fiscal year. This increase stems mainly from customers that were added upon execution of new contracts that had been signed in previous years.
Gaz Métro-QDA's net income attributable to the Partners of Gaz Métro totalled $110.7 million for fiscal 2012, up slightly by $0.1 million from last year, partly due to overearnings realized on increased optimization transactions on transportation and load-balancing contracts, partly offset by the rate reduction authorized by the Régie de l'énergie (Régie) for fiscal 2012, which translated into a decrease in net income.
Results of energy distribution in Vermont
Excluding non-recurring items, net income attributable to the Partners of Gaz Métro from energy distribution activities in Vermont totalled $20.2 million1 for fiscal 2012, up $5.1 million from $15.1 million in fiscal 2011. This increase was mainly due to:
partly mitigated by:
Results of other activities
Natural Gas Transportation
Net income attributable to the Partners of Gaz Métro from the Natural Gas Transportation segment totalled $16.3 million1 for fiscal 2012, up $0.8 million from fiscal 2011. The increase was mainly due to an increased share in the income of Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS), which, among other things, saw a rise in short-term sales because less natural gas was available on other systems, partly mitigated by the fact that Trans Québec & Maritimes Pipeline Inc. (TQM) had benefited from a favourable adjustment to its amortization expense in the first quarter of fiscal 2011, after the amortization rates for property, plant and equipment were revised downward upon National Energy Board approval.
Natural Gas Storage
For fiscal 2012, the net income attributable to the Partners of Gaz Métro from the Natural Gas Storage segment totalled $6.5 million1, a $1.0 million year-over-year increase that was mainly due to lower operating expenses caused by delays in carrying out certain maintenance projects.
Energy Services and Other
Excluding non-recurring items, the net income attributable to the Partners of Gaz Métro from the Energy Services and Other segment was $3.5 million1 in fiscal 2012, down $1.0 million from fiscal 2011. This decrease was mainly due to the sale, in fiscal 2011, of the interests in Aqua Data and MTO and to a higher net loss incurred by Gaz Métro Transport Solutions, L.P. (Transport Solutions), which commenced operations during fiscal 2011. These factors were partly offset by greater profitability at HydroSolution L.P. owing to higher rental rates for water heaters and to greater electric water heater sales as well as to additional revenues generated on the sale of heating and air conditioning equipment that began in March 2011.
Natural gas initiatives in Quebec
Network development at Thetford Mines
In December 2010, Gaz Métro-QDA confirmed that it would be involved in bringing natural gas to the Thetford Mines region by extending its current network by 80 km. Thanks to an $18.1 million financial contribution from the federal government and a $7.2 million investment by Gaz Métro-QDA, this $25.3 million project, highly anticipated by the community of Thetford Mines, took shape in November 2012.
This gas pipeline project will contribute to the region's economic development and greatly improve the environmental performance of these future customers of Gaz Métro-QDA. To date, more than 125 contracts have been signed, for an annual consumption of over 11 million cubic metres. The project was commissioned in November 2012, and approximately 90 customers are expected to be connected by the end of the 2012 calendar year. These conversions to natural gas will help reduce fuel oil consumption by approximately eight million litres, which represents a GHG emissions reduction of about 7,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
Projects to inject biomethane into Gaz Métro-QDA's network
The Quebec government has created a program to treat organic waste through biomethanation, or composting, and thereby divert organic materials from landfills to produce a new green energy, biomethane, which will aim to replace fossil and other fuels.
On July 26, 2012, Gaz Métro announced the first project to inject biomethane into its network. It is a major project that will be an important milestone in the development of a new renewable energy in Quebec. It involves the construction of an anaerobic digestion plant in Saint-Hyacinthe as well as the infrastructures needed to feed biomethane into Gaz Métro-QDA's distribution network.
On September 28, 2012, Gaz Métro-QDA submitted, to the Régie, a biomethane injection investment project, which would eventually reduce greenhouse gases by 25,000 tonnes annually. In accordance with the agreement with the City of Saint-Hyacinthe, Gaz Métro-QDA will purchase the energy produced by that city and install the infrastructures needed to inject biomethane into its distribution network and make it available its customers. As a public utility, Gaz Métro will therefore be serving the needs of municipalities and the Quebec government's goal of developing biomethane, a locally produced, renewable energy.
An agreement similar to the one with the City of Saint-Hyacinthe has also been signed with Quebec City. These projects are subject to the Régie's approval.
Project to serve the Côte-Nord region
The Côte-Nord region is the last of Quebec's major industrial regions that does not yet benefit from the environmental and economic advantages of natural gas.
Large amounts of heavy oil are currently consumed in the Côte-Nord region. However, the distance separating the Côte-Nord from Gaz Métro-QDA's existing infrastructures is considerable. More than 450 km of pipeline would have to be laid to connect Saguenay to Sept-Îles, passing through other major industrial centres of Baie-Comeau and Port-Cartier.
Such a project would require an investment of about $750 million and add approximately 40% to the value of Gaz Métro-QDA's rate base. To make a fully informed decision on a project of such magnitude, the Quebec government and Gaz Métro are diligently carrying out feasibility studies. The conclusions of these studies are expected by the end of the 2012 calendar year. If the conclusions are positive, Gaz Métro-QDA will continue the regulatory and environmental approval processes in calendar year 2013. If all the necessary approvals are obtained, the preparatory work and construction of Gaz Métro-QDA's Côte-Nord service could begin in 2015 with a view to start-up in 2016.
Natural gas as transportation fuel
Transport Solutions, an indirect subsidiary of Gaz Métro created to develop natural gas for use as fuel by the transportation industry, is deploying a "Blue Road" along the Quebec City - Toronto corridor, which is heavily used by transport trucks. Since July 2011, it has been installing the facilities needed to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) to 180 freight trucks from three refuelling stations, under an agreement entered into with Transport Robert 1973 Ltée (Robert Transport). The private stations in Boucherville and Mississauga have been operating since September 2011 and January 2012, respectively. The third station, slated for start-up in fiscal 2013, would be the first public LNG distribution station in the Quebec City metropolitan area. In October 2012, pending completion of the third station, Transport Solutions installed a temporary mobile fuelling station on the Robert Transport property in Saint-Nicolas, which can also service other carriers. For Transport Solutions, the project represents an investment of approximately $5 million. Delivery of 180 trucks ordered by Robert Transport began in autumn 2011 and will continue during fiscal 2013. Another carrier, Transport YN.-Gonthier inc., has also started using natural gas to fuel its trucks.
On July 31, 2012, Gaz Métro announced a first public liquefied biomethane fuelling station in Rivière-du-Loup, marking a new stage on the "Blue Road." Attentive to the needs of municipalities and the government's goal to promote green energy, Transport Solutions has signed an agreement with a renewable energy organization, SEMER (Société d'économie mixte d'énergie renouvelable de la région de Rivière-du-Loup). Under this agreement, Transport Solutions will buy all the liquefied biomethane produced by the RivièreduLoup plant for a minimum of 20 years and will operate a new liquefied biomethane fuelling station for the heavy transport market.
Natural gas and electricity initiatives in Vermont
VGS system development project
On October 17, 2012, VGS announced an agreement with International Paper Company under which one of that company's mills will purchase, under a long-term contract, natural gas from VGS starting at the end of the 2015 calendar year. In the 2013 calendar year, VGS plans on seeking the regulatory approvals needed for construction of the required facilities. The required system extension would be an expansion of the planned VGS system extension into Addison County in order to serve the communities of Vergennes and Middlebury. VGS plans to file for regulatory approval for this extension into Addison County by the end of the 2012 calendar year. If approved, these system extensions could increase VGS's rate base by approximately US$100 million.
Kingdom Community Wind (KCW) project
At the end of fiscal 2011, GMP began construction of the KCW project, a 63 MW wind power project located in Lowell, Vermont. This US$150-million, 21-turbine project will supply power to more than 24,000 households consisting of GMP customers and members of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, Inc. Construction of the the wind farm was completed and the 21 turbines have been in service since November 20, 2012. As at September 30, 2012, GMP had invested US$140.2 million in this project.
This investment, which is regulated and part of GMP's rate base, was financed through both debt and equity in accordance with GMP's capital structure. During fiscal 2012, GMP issued, by way of private placement, US$75.0 million in first mortgage bonds. The remainder of the investment was financed by an equity injection from Gaz Métro, through NNEEC.
Implementation of a smart electricity distribution system
Under a program implemented in 2009 by the U.S. federal government, most Vermont electricity distributors received a preliminary grant to implement a state-wide smart electricity distribution network. GMP Combined received a grant equivalent to its US$50.2 million investment, for a total investment of US$100.4 million. This three-year project consists of, among other activities, replacing the current customer information system, purchasing and installing approximately 275,000 smart meters for customers, incorporating certain detection and automation capacities into the distribution system, and participating in dynamic rate pilot projects with other electricity distributors in Vermont. GMP Combined and the other Vermont electricity distributors began implementation of this major project in fiscal 2010 and, to date, the work has been progressing as scheduled.
As at September 30, 2012, GMP Combined had invested $73.0 million in this project, $35.0 million of which is to be reimbursed under the terms of the grant. As at that date, $29.0 million of the grant had already been received. GMP Combined's management considers that the success of this project could both transform GMP Combined's customer relationships and the way it manages operations, by incorporating advanced technology into its operations.
Quarterly results of Valener and Gaz Métro
Valener's main investment is in Gaz Métro. Consequently, its results are significantly influenced by those of Gaz Métro. Given the seasonal nature of its operations and the normally low demand for energy during the summer months, Gaz Métro has historically incurred a loss during the fourth quarter of its fiscal year. Excluding non-recurring items, net loss attributable to the Partners of Gaz Métro for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 was $15.6 million compared to a net loss of $32.1 million for the same period of 2011. Excluding non-recurring items, Valener recorded a net loss attributable to common shareholders of $3.1 million ($0.08 per common share) for the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to a net loss of $7.1 million ($0.19 per common share) for the year-earlier period.
Valener will hold a conference call with financial analysts today, Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 11 am (Eastern Time) to discuss its results and those of Gaz Métro for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2012.
Pursuant to an administration and management support agreement entered into between Valener and Gaz Métro on September 30, 2010, Gaz Métro acts as manager of Valener. As such, Sophie Brochu, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Pierre Despars, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Affairs and Chief Financial Officer of Gaz Métro inc., the General Partner of Gaz Métro, will be the speakers, and a question period will follow.
The call will be broadcast live and is accessible by dialling 647-427-7450 or toll-free 1-888-231-8191. It will also be available via webcast on Valener's website (www.valener.com) in the Events & Presentations page of the Investors section.
The media and other interested parties are invited to listen in. After the conference call, the speakers will be available for media interviews and questions.
For 30 days afterward, a rebroadcast will be accessible by dialling 416-849-0833 or toll-free 18558592056 (access code: 46598817). For 90 days afterward, the call can be played back on the above-mentioned website.
Overview of Valener
Valener owns an economic interest of approximately 29% in Gaz Métro. Valener therefore has a stake in the energy industry and benefits from Gaz Métro's diversified profile, both in terms of geography and business segment. Valener also owns a 24.5% indirect interest in the wind power projects developed with Gaz Métro and Boralex Inc. on the private lands of Séminaire de Québec. Valener's common shares and preferred shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the "VNR" trading symbol for common shares and under the "VNR.PR.A" trading symbol for Series A preferred shares. www.valener.com
Overview of Gaz Métro
With over $5 billion in assets, Gaz Métro is a leading energy provider. It is the largest natural gas distribution company in Quebec, where its 10,000-km underground network of pipelines serves 300 municipalities and more than 185,000 customers. Gaz Métro is also present in Vermont, producing electricity and distributing electricity and natural gas to cater to the needs to some 300,000 customers. Gaz Métro is actively involved in the development of innovative, sustainability-oriented energy projects such as the production of wind power, the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel and the development of biomethane as a renewable energy source. Gaz Métro is committed to ensuring the satisfaction of its customers, providing support to businesses, local organizations, families and communities, and meeting the needs of its partners (Gaz Métro inc. and Valener) and employees. www.gazmetro.com
Cautionary note regarding forward-looking statements
This press release may contain forward-looking information within the meaning of applicable securities laws. Such forward-looking information reflects the intentions, plans, expectations and opinions of the management of GMi, in its capacity as General Partner of Gaz Métro, and acting as manager of Valener (the management of the manager) and is based on information currently available to the management of the manager and assumptions about future events. Forward-looking statements can often be identified by words such as "plans," "expects," "estimates," "forecasts," "intends," "anticipates" or "believes" or similar expressions, including the negative and conjugated forms of these words. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties and other factors beyond the control of the management of the manager. A number of factors could cause the actual results of Valener or of Gaz Métro to differ significantly from current expectations, as described in the forward-looking statements, including but not limited to the general nature of the aforementioned, terms of decisions rendered by regulatory agencies, the competitiveness of natural gas in relation to other energy sources, the reliability of natural gas and electricity supply, the integrity of the natural gas and electricity distribution systems, the progress of wind power projects and other development projects, the ability to complete attractive acquisitions and the related financing and integration aspects, the ability to secure future financing, general economic conditions, exchange rate and interest rate fluctuations, weather conditions and other factors described in the Risk Factors Relating to Valener and the Risk Factors Relating to Gaz Métro sections of Valener's and Gaz Metro's MD&As for the year ended September 30, 2012 and in Valener's disclosure filings. Although the forward-looking statements contained herein are based on what the management of the manager believes to be reasonable assumptions, including assumptions to the effect that no unforeseen changes in the legislative and regulatory framework of energy markets in Quebec and in the New England states will occur; that no significant event occurring outside the ordinary course of business, such as a natural disaster or other calamity, will occur; that Gaz Métro will be able to continue distributing substantially all of its net income (excluding non-recurring items); that the wind power projects in which Valener and Gaz Métro hold indirect interests will be completed on schedule and as per specification; that GMP will be able to quickly and effectively integrate CVPS's operations; and that the conclusions of studies on the project to serve the Côte-Nord region will be positive and that the regulatory approvals will be obtained in addition to the other assumptions described in the Valener and Gaz Métro MD&As for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2012, the management of the manager cannot assure investors that actual results will be consistent with these forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are made as of this date, and the management of the manager assumes no obligation to update or revise them to reflect new events or circumstances, except as required pursuant to applicable securities laws. Readers are cautioned to not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements.
1 Net of financing costs.
SOURCE VALENER INC.
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