Wednesday 21 February 2018

NTR to re-enter wind energy market after €8.4m toll-road victory in courts

Wind farm
Wind farm
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

UTILITY company NTR is preparing to re-enter the Irish wind energy market, buoyed by a recent win in the Supreme Court that will net it nearly €10m from two county councils.

The former owner of Airtricity has been shedding Irish assets in recent years, but said it was now looking to buy Irish and UK wind farms within the next six months.

It has at least €50m in cash reserves to do this. Its cash pile was boosted by €8.4m in recent weeks, after the company won a Supreme Court appeal relating to a dispute about toll rates.

The dispute concerned rates levied on NTR by Fingal County Council and Louth County Council when it operated the Westlink toll facility in Dublin and a toll on the M1 between Gormanston in Meath and Monasterboice in Louth.

NTR sold its stake in both tolls several years ago but the dispute rumbled on until the Supreme Court appeal was decided last month.

The company's main interests now lie with its US wind-energy business, which reported sales growth over the last six months.

Interim results released yesterday showed that revenues climbed to €20.7m from €10.8m in the same period a year before. This was attributed to the introduction of an extra 200MW of operating wind assets in the US.

The company sold its North American recycling business, Greenstar, for $220m (€162m) earlier this year. Its Irish recycling business, Greenstar Ireland, has been in receivership since August of last year. The company said it has no ownership or control anymore over the affairs of that unit, which instead lies with the receivers.

It also has two remaining Irish road assets – it is a part owner of a toll in Portlaoise and one on the Waterford bypass – but would not divulge how much it is earning from those tolls.

The company had a cash pile of €139m at the end of September, but €100m of this has since been returned to its 2,200 shareholders through a share buy-back. The company is traded on the so-called 'grey market', which in practice means it mainly trades among clients of Ireland's largest stockbroking firms.

Meanwhile, Eddie O'Connor's Mainstream Renewables has become one of the first companies to qualify for a new UK support scheme for renewable energy. It has won the backing for a wind farm planned for off the coast of Scotland that should supply 3.7pc of Scotland's electricity demand.

Irish Independent

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