NTR chairman Tom Roche has backed a €30m "limited distribution" payout to the energy company's shareholders as part of the sale of its Osage wind power business in the US. The proposal forms part of a convoluted deal, which may see Roche's Woodford Capital take control of the €160m valued group.
Roche's Woodford Capital owns an 38pc stake in NTR, with One51 and Nick Furlong's investment group Pageant holding another 33pc between them. One51 has been seeking an exit from its shareholding in the group, with Pageant also looking to cash in. This led to a plan which may see NTR offload its €200m US wind-farm business and launch a tender offer to buy out its shareholders, facilitating the exits of both One51 and Pageant. By not taking part in this tender offer, Woodford capital would become the dominant shareholder in the company, effectively taking it private. Roche, whose family fortune initially came from CRH, is one of the richest businessmen in the country.
In a letter to the NTR board, obtained by the Sunday Independent, Woodford Capital suggests that it "would welcome a limited distribution (up to €30m) following receipt of the Osage sale proceeds. The letter reveals that a number of options been considered by Woodford Capital including the sale of 100pc of NTR to another party, a liquidation of the company, the sale of Pageant/One51 shares to Woodford or to another company. "Following discussions," the letter notes, "these options were dismissed as being unsuitable to one or more parties for a variety of reasons." This led to Woodford pursuing the final option, " a share buy back scheme." The letter adds that "the above proposal was agreed in principle by One51/Pageant at the meeting of July 1st."
The fortunes of the former National Tolls Roads company have tracked that of the economy. Shares in NTR have tumbled from a December 2007 peak of €6.75 down to €1.60 last week. However they have staged a recovery from January 2013, when they traded at closer to 50 cent. The company netted a huge windfall when selling its Westlink toll road back to the State but invested some of the money in a series of dud solar power projects, racking up eye watering losses. Since then it has rationalised its business to focus on European renewables projects. NTR now plans to invest in wind power projects in Ireland, the UK and Scandinavia. Both Pageant and One51 were opposed to this strategy, which triggered their desire to sell out.