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News : Irish Last Updated: Apr 24, 2009 - 5:31:05 PM

NTR loses up to €35 million after collapse of German biodiesel venture; Takes controlling stake in US-based Wind Capital Group
By Finfacts Team
Apr 25, 2008 - 3:50:35 AM

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Jim Barry, CEO NTR plc with Dr. Otto Ebnet, Local Minister for Economic Affairs (right) and Dr. Paul Krüger, Lord Mayor of the City of Neubrandenburg (left).

NTR has lost up to €35 million after the collapse of a German biodiesel venture, which has filed for insolvency as a result of regulatory and tax changes in that market.

In the US, NTR, formerly known as National Toll Roads, has taken a controlling stake in Wind Capital Group, a St. Louis, Missouri-based wind farm operator.

This investment comes only months after NTR received almost €850 million from the sale of its Airtricity's US and European wind farms, and follows its purchase last week of a 51 per cent stake in Arizona solar power company Stirling Energy Systems for $100 million.

A court in Berlin-Charlottenburg has appointed an insolvency assessor to Emerald Biodiesel Holdings, a unit of NTR's Bioverda subsidiary.

NTR decided not to provide further equity financing to this business after it concluded that it was "inherently unprofitable" as a result of changes introduced by the German authorities.

On 27th October 2005, NTR announced an initial €30 million investment in Emerald Bio-diesel GmbH.

Emerald Biodiesel, in which NTR is a major shareholder, commenced construction of an integrated oil mill and biodiesel facility in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, approximately 100 kilometres north of Berlin.

The facility was to be in production before the end of the 2006 and initially produced 50 million litres of biodiesel from rapeseed oil. The plan was to up-scale to 150 million litres by the end of 2008. Locally grown rapeseed was used as the main raw material and supplied under a long-term contract by the region's leading agricultural co-operative. The biodiesel was destined for the German transport market.

Last December, NTR reported that the sale of the West Link toll bridge in Dublin, had boosted its profits for the six months to the end of September, but profits fell when this was stripped out.

Operating profits of €426.8 million included an exceptional pre-tax gain of €420.4 million from the sale of the West Link toll facility to the State.

But operating profits before this were €6.5 million, down from €9.4 million a year earlier. This reflected strong performances from its wind energy business Airtricity and waste business Greenstar, but there were losses in its Bioverda subsidiary due a "difficult" biodiesel market in Germany.

In related NTR news, Greenstar, Ireland’s largest waste management company, on Thursday confirmed that it has issued formal court proceedings against Dublin’s four local authorities for their decision to vary Dublin’s waste management regulations in a way that effectively rules out fair competition and customer choice in the domestic waste collection sector.

Greenstar was granted permission to seek the judicial review of the new waste plan by the High Court on 21st April on a number of grounds including that the local authorities had failed to give adequate reasons for their decisions to vary the waste rules and that their action breached Greenstar’s right to earn a livelihood.

In an a sworn affidavit, Jerry Dempsey, a Director of Greenstar, states that the local authorities’ proposed changes appeared to be “a direct attack” on Greenstar’s operations in the household waste collection market in the Dublin region and that there was “no factual basis” to the legal, economic or environmental arguments put forward by the local authorities.

Dempsey further contended that there is no evidence to suggest that the presence in the Dublin region of private waste collectors collecting household waste had caused any of the adverse environmental impacts alleged by the local authorities. It is also contended that private sector involvement has resulted in a profoundly positive impact on household waste collection in terms of increased level of service and cheaper costs to householders.

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