Boralex Inc.

Q1 2023 Earnings Conference Call


spk00: For participants in the web broadcast, you can also ask questions during this conference, but these will be answered by mail after the call. Finally, media representatives who have questions are invited to contact Camille Laverture, Public Affairs and External Communications Counselor at Boralex at the indicated coordinates at the end of the quarterly communication. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Boralex first quarter of 2023 Financial Results Conference Call. Please note that all lines are in listen-only mode. Following the presentation, we will conduct a question and answer session. in which financial analysts, shareholders and investors will be invited to ask their questions by pressing star 1 and 1 on their telephone. Please also note that this conference is being recorded. For webcast participants, you can also ask questions during this conference, but they will be answered by email after the call. Finally, media representatives are invited to contact Camille Lavetier, Advisor, Public Affairs and External Communications at Boralex. Her contact information is provided at the end of the quarterly press release. I would now like to turn the conference over to Stéphane Milot, Vice President, Investor Relations for Boralex. Please go ahead.
spk05: Thank you, operator, and good morning, everyone. So, welcome to Boralex's first quarter resolve conference call. Joining me today on the call, Patrick D'Acostre, our President and Chief Executive Officer. Buzuno Guilmette, our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. and other members of our management and finance teams. Mr. Dacoste will begin with comments about market conditions and the highlights of the quarter. Afterwards, Mr. Gilmette will carry on with financial highlights, and then we will be available to answer your questions. As you know, during this call, we will discuss historical as well as forward-looking information. I'm talking about the future. There's a variety of risk factors that have been listed in our different filings with Securit... securities regulators, which can materially change our estimated results. These documents are all available for consultation at In our webcast presentation document, the disclosed results are presented both on a consolidated basis and on a combined basis. When talking about the results, we generally refer to combined numbers, and referring to cash flow and balance sheet, we generally refer to consolidated numbers. Please note that combined is non-GAAP financial measures and does not have standardized meaning under IFRS. Accordingly, combined may not be comparable to similarly named measure used by other companies. For more details, see the non-IFRS and other financial measures section in the MD&E. The press release, the MD&E, the consolidated financial statements, and a copy of today's presentation are all posted on the BioLex website at under the investor section. If you wish to receive a copy of these documents, please contact me. Mr. de Kustman, I'll start with his comments. Please go ahead, Patrick.
spk01: Thank you, Stéphane. Good morning, everyone. It's a pleasure for me to present our results and achievements for the first quarter. Our teams have been very active on the growth and diversification strategic orientations in the quarter. I'm very proud to say we reached six gigawatts of project pipelines by adding 117 MW of wind, 121 MW of solar and 230 MW of storage project in the quarter. Total production increased by 22% in the first quarter compared to 2022. The integration of wind farm acquired in the US, the commissioning of wind and solar farms in France, the favorable wind conditions in France and favorable hydro conditions in North America more than compensated for unfavorable wind conditions in Canada. ABDA for the quarter was 192 million, up 9 million or 5% over 2022, reflecting the contribution from the U.S. acquisition and commissioning of assets as well as high level of electricity prices in France, which more than offset the decrease in production in Canada. Please note that the comparable figure in the first quarter of 2022 included a 16 million positive effect coming from certain feed-in premium contract in France, which was taken out in the third quarter of 2022 after the enactment of the Supplementary Budget Act. Excluding this element, the ABDA growth would have been 15%. We got the same effect on the AFFO level, which would have seen a 7% increase if we exclude the $16 million effect. Finally, we maintained our financial flexibility in the quarter and ended the quarter with a solid balance sheet. Brno will provide further details on this point in this section. I won't go into all the details of market conditions, but in general, I would say that for all markets in which we operate and develop, favorable programs are being discussed or put in place similar to the IRA in the US. The latest one is the ITC in Canada. The federal government announced on March 28, its intention to adopt a series of measures to advance the green economy, including the adoption of the 30% investment tax credit ITC for capital expenditures related to renewable energy production, energy storage, and clean manufacturing. In addition to the ITC, the Canadian government committed to support electrical systems upgrades clean energy investments by indigenous communities and crown corporations and other measures to reduce emissions. In Quebec, on March 31st, Hydro-Québec issued a tender call for 1.5 gigawatts of wind power. The issuance of the tender is part of a larger plan to quadruple wind power capacity over the next 15 years to meet growing energy demand of 25 TWh. I will now rapidly review the main variances in our portfolio of projects and growth paths. The increase in the early stage was mainly due to additions of five new wind projects and four new solar projects in Europe, totaling 163 MW, and two solar projects in North America for a total of 75 MW. The change in the mid-stage was mainly due to progression of one solar project in Europe to the mid-stage phase, adding 11 megawatts, change to the expected capacity of one wind project and one solar project in Europe for a reduction of 12 megawatts, and progression of two wind projects in Europe to the advanced stage. In total, our pipeline now comprises project totaling 4.3 GW of solar and wind project and 1 GW of storage project. In storage, we're waiting for the results of the February auction in Ontario in which we bid 380 MW. We are also preparing for the upcoming bid in September. In the growth path, no project progressed to the secured or ready-to-build phases. We continue to work on the optimization of our solar project in the U.S. and are expecting feedback from NARSERDA in the coming months. Projects in construction are progressing as planned. The two largest ones, APRIT in Quebec and LimeKin in Scotland, are expected to be commissioned in 2024. I won't cover in all details the progress made in our growth and diversification strategic directions, as I have already talked about the major highlights. On the customer strategic direction, we continue to have discussions with numerous corporations in France and the UK. In terms of optimization, I would like to highlight all the work done by our teams to integrate our most recent acquisition in the U.S. the integration is going according to plan. Higher ABDA contribution than expected is mainly due to the differences in production tax credit PTC accounting in IFRS standard versus US GAAP. One last point about optimization. We continue to insource maintenance in Canada. We also continue to optimize our capital structure and strengthen our balance sheet with the early repayment of a $58 million loan in France. This completes my part. I will now let Bruno cover the financial portion in more detail, and we'll be back later for the question period.
spk03: Thank you, Patrick. Good morning, everyone. I will start with a review of the progress made in light of our 2025 corporate objectives. Our balance sheet remains solid. with more than $330 million in available cash in authorized financing facilities. An amount of $77 million under the revolving credit facility will be transferred to the letter of credit facility guaranteed by EDC, which was increased by $125 million, bringing its total authorized amount to $200 million in April 2023. We continue to make good progress on the EBITDA and AFFO when taking into account the $16 million effect mentioned by Patrick earlier. The reinvestment ratio of 56% is in line with our targeted range. Our CSR strategy progress is presented on slide 16. For more detailed information, including data on CO2 emissions and work done in relation to the climate change and the TCFD initiatives, I invite you to read our third CSR report, which was published at the end of February. I will now cover the financial results for the quarter, starting with production. Overall, total combined wind production for the quarter, combining Canada, the US and France, was in line with anticipated production. and 29% higher than last year. Good conditions in France and the U.S. compensated for unfavorable wind conditions in Canada, especially in Quebec, where we got more important icing periods than usual. Turning to hydro now. Total production for the hydro sector was 18% higher than anticipated and 10% higher than last year. both markets, Canada and US, had favorable weather conditions. Finally, production from solar assets was 3% lower than anticipated and 12% lower than the same quarter last year, mainly due to unfavorable conditions in the US. In summary, total production for the quarter was 1% higher than anticipated and 22% higher than last year. First quarter, Combined revenues were up 32% compared to last year, mostly due to the integration of our acquisition in the U.S., commissioning of assets, and high prices of electricity in France. Combined EBITDA increased by 5% in the first quarter and operating income increased by 1%. that the $12 million increase in corporate expenses is related to increase in the workforce for the growth of the corporation. AFFO was $65 million compared to 77 million in the same quarter last year. As mentioned by Patrick, the first quarter of 2022 included a positive $16 million effect relating to feed-in premium contracts. Excluding this amount, AFFO would have increased by $4 million or 7%. Our financial position is solid with our net debt to total market capital ratio of 38% compared to 40% at the end of 2022. In conclusion, it's a good start for 2023 as we continue the disciplined execution of our plan. We added $468 megawatt to our project pipeline. Our pipeline of projects and development and construction reached 6 gigawatt and 96% increase over 2020, the reference date for our 2025 strategic plan. Combined production was in line with anticipated production and increased by 22% over the first quarter of 2022. EBITDA reached 192 million and 9 million increase over 2022. We maintain a solid financial position with more than $330 million in available cash resources and authorized financing and a net debt to total capital ratio of 38%. And finally, market environment continues to be highly favorable for development activities in all our markets. Thank you for your attention. We are now ready to take your questions.
spk00: Thank you. As a reminder, to ask a question, please press star 1 and 1 on your telephone and wait for your name to be announced. To withdraw your question, please press star 1 and 1 again. Once again, it's star 1 and 1 on your telephone if you have any questions at this time. We are now going to proceed with our first question. And the questions come from the line of Rupert Merrill from National Bank of Canada. Please ask your question.
spk04: Hi. Good morning, everyone. Patrick, you touched briefly on the corporate PPA market in France. Can you give us a little more color on how that corporate PPA market is evolving and what's the outlook for that market? And with that, if you look at your portfolio projects in France, you have some contracts that have fairly short durations here. What do you do next? Do you contract those projects or do you stay merchant near term?
spk01: Good morning, Rupert. Essentially, we have a lot of demand for short, three years, long, 10 years and 20 years contract in France from different corporations. So we have typically extended the contract which was signed with Auchan, we extended for three years. at an interesting price, considering that it's good for the customer also because the expected price for the next three years are high. The further the contract, the lower is the price, but the price is still at a high level, almost three digits, which is good in France, in Europe. So it also gives us optionality to finance projects, new projects and additional projects. So that's what we see in France and I think it's very promising for the future of the company and it's very promising because we have many contracts coming to an end in the next eight years in France. and I'm very confident we'll find off-takers for our electricity at the reasonable price for us.
spk04: So looking at the French market, can you give us an update on what you anticipate as far as government calls for power go, and what's the pricing in those government calls today? expected to be? How does it compare to the corporate market? Or do you just think that perhaps in the future you'll build directly under corporate PPAs instead?
spk01: Yeah, it's a very good question. You have seen that the last RSP in France, they have just selected four projects, I think on 60, which were bid projects. This is typically due to the fact that the curve is now inverted, meaning that the price is not going down, it's going up, because there is more cost on our side, but optionality also, as you mentioned, with corporation. So there is an RFP on May 12 in France for 925 megawatts in wind. There is an RFP for 1.5 gigawatts in solar in July. There is then... probably a neutral RFP during the summer. And then another 925 megawatt wind in September. Like in the past, there will probably not be enough project to bid, authorized project to bid. So price will be under pressure on the right side for us. And as I mentioned in the first question, we have options to sell to corporations, And the price of corporate PPA are generally higher with corporation today because I think it's normal to have a higher price. This was the case for typically mature market in PPA like Spanish market to have RFP price a little bit lower than PPA price.
spk04: All right, great. I'll leave it there. Thanks, Nicola.
spk00: Thank you. We are now going to proceed with our next question. And the questions come from the line of Ben Pham from BMO. Please ask your question.
spk07: Hi, thanks. Can you maybe give us an update on how you think about your funding position? Is it at this point in time? How do you think about the split between the debt side to get to the 4.4 gigawatts of capacity?
spk03: Hi, Ben. So thank you for the question. In terms of funding, as I mentioned, we have availability between cash and our credit facilities of about $330 million, plus we'll transfer the $77 million to DDC, so close to $400 million overall in terms of credit. fairly accessible, easy financing. So we're good for probably the rest, certainly the rest of this year, if we need to. In terms of excluding M&A, always, as I say. In terms of our strategy and financing, we mentioned that we want to provide look at the possibility to have more corporate debt, probably following our credit rating. So the credit rating objective remains in terms of an objective for 2025. The market for project financing for our type of project is still quite good, quite strong. So, for example, we're working on the financing of the APRIT project and it's going well. So in general, we have availability on our credit facilities, a portion of cash, the long-term financing of projects. So at some point, we'll see what we need in terms of additional equity, especially to balance with our desire to reach investment-grade rating. Does that answer your question, Ben?
spk07: Yeah, no, that's great. Thanks for the update. And I know you talked about the European policies and France in your remarks. Can you give us an update on the events in the last RFP, what happened there? And then also, how do you think about a timeline going forward with upcoming RFPs? This is for France.
spk01: Yeah. Hello, it's Patrick. On the last RFP, essentially what the Regulation Commission said is it's an administrative problem, the form of healthy, but the Energy Transition and Environment Minister, no, Energy Transition Minister, Agnès Pannier-Rinacher, was not happy with the answer of the regulator and say we will start quickly two other rounds and there would be as i mentioned there would be around in may and there would be around in september for win 925 megawatt posts and that would be around in july for solder and the team are working to to to bid on that uh that rfp and the the second point about general the say legislation in france uh The PPE, which is the planning of electricity production for the next years, is coming this summer. So there is a lot of consultation. And obviously, our industry is pushing hard to say the only solution on the short term is renewable. And then we will see where the government will go. I think it will be positive. And more generally speaking about the French markets, price in Q4 and Q1 next year are at a high level presently, especially because they have been at a very high level in April. They are still at a high level today because there is, again, question on the nuclear fleet for the next winter in France.
spk07: Okay, great. Thanks for the update. Thank you.
spk00: Once again, if you do have any questions or comments, please press star 1 and 1 on your telephone and wait for your name to be announced. Thank you. We are now going to proceed with our next question. And the questions come from Sean Stewart from TD Securities. Please ask your question.
spk06: Thank you. Good morning. Bruno, I think you mentioned that you consider the company funded for this year if there's no M&A, and that's separate. Can you speak to, Patrick or Bruno, your interest in M&A? Are you actively considering possibilities, and if so, any context on scale and geographic or technology focus?
spk03: Thank you, Sean, for the question. We continue to look at a number of opportunities. Not all in details, but certainly we continue to monitor the market, to look at opportunities, especially in the US and in Europe. These are not so much in Canada at the moment. We see a transition, I would say, in the market. We see that gradually the buyers are shifting a little bit their expectations in terms of return. They're increasing their expectations in terms of returns, but it's happening gradually, which to us is important because We believe that the cost of capital has increased, certainly on the debt side, and we were seeing people paying a little bit too much a few months ago. That's changing gradually, and we're certainly looking at different opportunities now. In terms of types of targets, I mean, It needs to be a creative, it needs to be a good financial target, but certainly also on the operation side, we need to be able to add value on the operation side. And if we see a pipeline possibility which fits with our strategic targets, diversification is key also in terms of our decision-making process and our criteria. We look at a number of opportunities. We are very selective, and we continue to be disciplined on the return expectation and the accretion of those.
spk06: Thanks for that. And then on the other side of that, any updated thoughts on asset recycling as a funding source and how you, after this year, I suppose, would weigh the the potential economics of asset recycling to fund earlier stage development growth versus issuing equity at this point?
spk03: Yeah, I think it continues to be a possibility in, I'd say, in the medium term. So certainly we have some interesting assets. You've all seen the transaction we did in France, which was quite positive for us. and recycling cash, keeping a very significant foothold in France, but at the same time joining forces with EIP and getting a good price on that transaction. So we'll be selectively looking at other possibilities in the portfolio, and we believe that there are some, but we're waiting for the right moment where we think that the value would be there, the potential partner would be interesting for us, and the price. So to get the right partnership long-term is important, but we're We're considering that more in the medium term, I would say.
spk06: Okay. That's all I have. Thanks very much. Thank you.
spk00: We're now going to proceed with our next question. And the questions come from the land of Gabrielle Moreau from IA Capital Markets. Please ask your question.
spk02: All right. Good morning. Can you give us an update on your software? Can you give us an update on your solar development project in New York?
spk01: Yes. We are optimizing the cost of the first 200 megawatts, the cost of construction. We have already some conversation with nyserda not not just boralex but the whole industry to to see how the the price should be adapted of this the the 2019 2020 contract and i am confident that we will find something acceptable for the different parties in the future and a good a good indicator for NYSERDA is obviously the price that has been bid on the last RFP by the industry. I have an idea of what BOALEX has done, not the others, but I'm pretty sure that everyone has a higher price proposed there, so they would know what to do. And on our side, we bid 260 megawatts on this RFP in April. And we are also, the result of this tender will be known in the summer. And we are also preparing for the 2023 RFP, which is planned in the fall and ready to bid some project also there.
spk02: Interesting. Thank you. And what are your thoughts Sorry, there was a bill recently in New York that allowed the New York Power Authority to build their own power project. Do you think there's going to be any impact on new capacity award to private sector and developer?
spk01: I'm not convinced about this. Incidentally, I had a meeting with the was a NYPA CEO two weeks ago in New York, and this was not on the top of his table. So I think they are more partnering with people like us. And so I'm not expecting that this is a dangerous competition for us. So, no.
spk02: Thank you very much. That's it for me. Thank you.
spk00: We have no further questions at this time. I will now hand back the conference to you for closing remarks. Thank you.
spk05: All right. So thank you, everyone, for your attention. If you have additional questions, please call me at 514-213-1045. I'll make sure to answer quickly all your questions as usual. Our next call to announce second quarter results will be on Monday, August 14 at 11 a.m. Have a nice day, everyone. Thank you.
spk00: Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference call. Thank you for participating. You may now disconnect your lines. Thank you.

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