NTR exploring US wind farm sale

Ireland’s NTR plc, owner of Missouri-based Wind Capital Group, has acknowledged that it may sell its 351MW of wind capacity in the US, amid apparent pressure from two of its largest shareholders.

Through Wind Capital Group, Dublin-based NTR owns two US wind farms -- the 150MW Lost Creek project in Missouri, which was completed in 2010, and the 201MW Post Rock project in Kansas, completed in 2012.

Both projects use GE 1.5MW turbines.

According to a story in the Irish Times newspaper, two of NTR’s largest shareholders – One51 and Pageant Holdings, which own a combined 33.5% stake in the company – have spent months pressuring NTR to sell its US wind assets.

According to that story, their plan was to convince NTR to sell its US wind assets, after which they would then sell their stakes in NTR to the company’s largest shareholder, Woodford Capital.

Woodford Capital, which presently holds a 38% stake in NTR, would become the company’s majority shareholder.

One51 and Pageant are reportedly unhappy with NTR’s strategy – announced last year – to acquire 150MW of new wind capacity over the next three years, mostly through investments in mid-sized Irish and UK projects – although projects in the US and Scandinavia are also under consideration.

NTR is thought to be close to a deal to buy into Irish wind projects.

Responding to the story, NTR on Friday put out a statement acknowledging that is reviewing its “strategic options” in the US wind market, including exploring the possibility of selling Lost Creek and Post Rock.

NTR brought both projects through construction and into operation after acquiring St. Louis-based Wind Capital Group in 2008. Wind Capital Group broke even on a cash basis in the last fiscal year, according to NTR’s annual report.

NTR "has commenced the process of appointing advisors to explore whether or not a sale of the US wind projects is the best course of action to maximise value for all shareholders", the company says.

"The Board will make a determination following the outcome of that process."

NTR – which earlier this year sold its stake in the under-construction 150MW Osage wind project in Oklahoma – has made clear its intention to shrink its exposure to early-stage, higher-risk wind developments.

Instead, it wants to become a “wind investment and asset management company”, with a major focus on operating existing assets.

In spite of its shareholders’ apparent unhappiness with its EU wind strategy, NTR on Friday “confirmed” its intention to roll ahead with its plan to buy 150MW of capacity over the next few years.

“The Board is very satisfied with the opportunities identified and the strong progress made to date, together with the clear evidence that attractive long-term yielding assets are available for investment,” the company says.

In its statement, NTR acknowledged that it was made aware that discussions had been taking place between its three largest shareholders, and had “an indication” of what they were “seeking to agree”.

But NTR says it was not privy to the discussions, and insists that no proposal agreed between the shareholders was ever presented to the company’s board of directors.