Viridor Strategic Review 2014/15 (extracted from the Pennon 2015 Annual Report)

Viridor has now passed its strategic point of inflexion, as we continue to give more resources new life through our leading recycling and energy recovery services. I’m pleased to confirm that our Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) business is now operational with five new ERFs brought on line during the year. We remain well on track to deliver c. £100 million of EBITDA from ERFs in 2016/17.

Despite the challenges in the recycling markets during the year, there are strong regulatory and market drivers for growth in the sector. Viridor is well positioned in its strategic business elements with significant cash being generated in Landfill Energy and with Contracts and Collection providing essential input materials for our ‘Energy’ and ‘Recycling & Resources’ divisions’ operating facilities.

The UK is required under the European Union (EU) Landfill Directive to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill sites. This is being achieved by a continued increase in recycling, with residual waste increasingly being used for energy recovery. A new and more ambitious EU Circular Economy legislative package is expected in 2015. The previously proposed package, withdrawn in 2014, contained 70% recycling targets, 80% packaging recycling targets and material-specific landfill bans.

The EU Renewable Energy Directive requires the production of 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. Energy recovery from waste in all its forms has a clear role within the Government’s UK Renewable Energy Roadmap and continues to deliver a substantial proportion of total UK renewable energy generated. Viridor believes that by 2020, UK energy recovery from waste could produce 15 terawatt hours (TWh) of the total forecasted UK renewable energy generation (120 TWh), accounting for 12%. This is particularly significant given predicted future energy capacity shortages.

The UK’s main mechanism for diverting waste from landfill and incentivising recycling and ERFs remains landfill tax. The UK and Scottish Governments have confirmed that landfill tax will rise on 1 April 2016 in line with inflation from the current position of £82.60 per tonne. This continues to influence the long-term economics of both recycling and energy recovery. In addition, recyclate costs have been typically significantly lower than the cost of using virgin materials for manufacturers.

Viridor is clearly focused on giving resources new life through recycling and waste-based renewable energy. Investment in technology and operational practices continues to enhance recyclate quality to differentiate Viridor from its competitors and to position it strongly within a consolidating sector. Significant progress has also been made in the delivery of the ERF business, with a substantial asset base now operational in conjunction with associated business capability processes across the whole ‘source to supply’ energy from waste (EfW) cycle.

Energy

ERFs

Viridor’s strategically located network of ERFs now provides an established and growing business serving PPP contracts and the commercial sector. Viridor has moved from investment to delivery with five facilities commencing operations in 2014/15. EfW remains central to the UK’s waste and renewable energy strategies as the low cost alternative to landfill for treatment and disposal of residual waste, and provider of base load electricity and heat utilisation opportunities. Viridor expects to have c.15% EfW market share by 2020, with its network of strategic facilities driving the company’s long-term profit growth.

Landfill energy

The focus of the landfill energy business is to maximise the value of landfill gas power generation across all sites; to manage the ongoing decline in landfill inputs by closing 18 sites over the next five years and maintaining three strategic operational sites; and to optimise returns on the closed landfills asset base through alternative uses such as photovoltaic installation, energy storage and divestment opportunities.

Continued focus on growing market share in a consolidating sector through its contracts and collections services, which play an essential role in securing inputs for the energy and recycling divisions, will also help to drive the delivery of the Viridor strategy.

Recycling and resources

Clear regulatory drivers for recycling from the EU and from UK governments, alongside expectations from leading corporates, are ensuring strong and ongoing demand for recycling services. Viridor has established its recycling business over the past five years and currently handles volumes approaching two million tonnes per annum. Viridor’s focus on Input, Throughput, Output Optimisation (ITOO) across its recycling activities is yielding improvements, ensuring the production of high quality materials and management of the cost base to mitigate impacts on margins.

Revenue was up 4.2% to £835.9 million reflecting ERFs coming into operation and further growth in assets under construction, partly offset by anticipated lower recycling revenue, down £30.0 million, due to lower volumes and prices resulting from adverse market conditions.

Before exceptional items: Viridor’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was up £4.1 million to £80.4 million (2013/14 £76.3 million); Viridor underlying EBITDA, which includes IFRIC 12 interest receivable and Viridor’s share of joint venture EBITDA, was up £9.4 million to £135.3 million; profit before interest and tax (PBIT) fell £8.6 million (28.5%) to £21.6 million; and PBIT plus joint ventures decreased by £5.7 million (13.1%) to £37.9 million.

Profit before tax and exceptional items increased by £0.1 million (0.4%) to £27.7 million reflecting lower PBIT plus joint ventures, offset by reduced interest payable, as a result of increased equity investment in Viridor by Pennon and higher IFRIC 12 interest receivable.

Capital expenditure including spend on service concession arrangements for the year was £262.2 million (2013/14 £292 million) of which c. £242 million was for Viridor growth projects (largely ERFs) with the balance being maintenance of existing assets.

Energy can be recovered essentially via two methods, either via gas utilisation (notably landfill gas power generation and anaerobic digestion (AD)) or via combustion in ERFs and similar facilities, some of which may be a part of Combined

Heat and Power (CHP) schemes. Landfill gas, biodegradable waste in ERFs and AD accounted for 25% of total UK renewable energy fuel use in 2013 (Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2014).

(a) Energy Recovery Facilities (ERFs) and Anaerobic Digestion (AD)

Viridor now has 139 MW of renewable energy capacity from its fleet of ERFs and AD facilities, which includes its share of joint ventures at Lakeside ERF, Runcorn I ERF and the Greater Manchester AD operations. The company has been successfully implementing its strategic plan to deliver the ERF business which will drive long-term profit momentum. This includes establishing a significant asset base of ERFs, the majority of which are now operational. Viridor and its partners have a total operational/committed ERF capacity of 2.8 million tonnes. Five plants, being Runcorn I and II, Exeter, Ardley and Cardiff, have been delivered into the operational Energy Division, contributing underlying EBITDA of £41.9 million during the year.

While the Runcorn plants were delayed in construction, liquidated damages were receivable for the period post the original contractual completion date. All other plants were delivered within or below budget. Two further plants, Peterborough and Glasgow, are more than halfway through construction; Dunbar commenced construction towards the end of the year, and Notice to Proceed with the construction of Beddington ERF was issued after the year-end. 100% of waste inputs have been secured for all plants at opening and Viridor has now secured c. 80% of the required waste inputs for the portfolio of the operational and committed plants, of which three-quarters are from long-term contracts. Achieving a balance between long-term local authority contracts and shorter term commercial waste fuel inputs enables an appropriate level of control over calorific value and therefore throughput and efficiency optimisation, as well as enhancing gate price control.

(b) Landfill gas generation

Viridor’s landfill energy business is being managed to maximise the value of landfill gas power generation, while exploring cryogenic energy storage and solar power developments as alternative uses for landfill sites with existing grid connections.

Gas volumes reached peak production in 2012/13 and have been reducing gradually. In 2014/15 the landfill gas power generation output was marginally down to 602 gigawatt hours (GWh) (2013/14 606 GWh), reflecting a successful output optimisation programme. Landfill gas power generation EBITDA was £35.8 million (2013/14 £37.3 million).

Average revenue per megawatt hour (MWh) was 3.3% higher at £92.72 (2013/14 £89.74) reflecting the higher proportion of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs). The switch from legacy Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) contracts to ROCs continues with 94% of energy now sold under the higher value ROCs. The remaining 6% NFFO component will migrate to ROCs by 2016/17. Average costs increased to £33.19 per MWh (2013/14 £28.13) due to maintenance costs to improve gas capture and lower volumes. Total landfill gas power generation operational capacity remained at 104 MW (excluding 3 MW capacity at sub-contract sites in Suffolk).

A 2.75 MW solar power installation at Westbury landfill was completed during the first half of 2014/15 and an £8 million cryogenic energy storage pilot project at Pilsworth landfill, funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, is under way. Future alternative uses for landfill sites are also being assessed as most of Viridor’s landfill operations accelerate into closure.

(c) Landfill

The business plan now being implemented for the landfill business is reducing operations to a few strategic sites, reflecting the fact that there will still be demand for landfilling of certain materials for the foreseeable future. The other sites are being run to closure and aftercare with an emphasis on maximising the value of electricity generation from landfill gas and reducing costs. Non-strategic sites and closed sites are being assessed for alternative uses – both for energy and for development potential. Three sites were closed in 2014/15 and a similar closure rate is forecast for the next five years, taking the number of sites from 18 to three.

The business continues to be cash generative and contributed £15.4 million to EBITDA in the year. Volumes were slightly down at 2.5 million tonnes.

Average gate fees decreased by 13.6% to £19.92 per tonne. Consented landfill capacity reduced from 57.7 million cubic metres (mcm) at 31 March 2014 to 51.7 mcm at 31 March 2015, reflecting usage during the period and site closures. As previously stated, and provided for, 39 mcm is not expected to be used.

Landfill tax is now increasing in line with inflation and increased on 1 April 2015 from £80 to £82.60.

During the year recycling volumes traded decreased by 151,000 tonnes (8.4%) to 1.7 million tonnes. Recyclate prices, while lower, have stabilised to some degree for most commodities but remain under pressure, reflecting world economic conditions and competitive markets. Overall, average revenues per tonne from recyclate sales and gate fees for the year fell to £86 per tonne, 7.7% lower than for 2013/14. Viridor remains cautious about future recyclate price growth and shipping costs.

EBITDA for the year was £49.0 million (2013/14 £62.6 million).

As announced at the half year, Viridor has commenced a two year Input, Throughput, Output Optimisation programme (ITOO) to provide an enhanced focus on increasing margins by taking actions across the value chain. The company is targeting a substantial enhancement in EBITDA margin through improvements in asset productivity.

Viridor continues to operate the most extensive Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) capacity in the UK with accreditations for export to China, and is established as a quality brand in the UK, Europe and other Far Eastern markets.

Profits were down slightly across the 15 local authority contracts around the UK (the more significant contracts include Greater Manchester, Lakeside, Glasgow, Lancashire, Somerset and West Sussex) and the Thames Water contract. The decrease reflected lower volumes on some contracts and the expiry of other contracts.

Additional contracts have been won since the year-end but profits are expected to be impacted by the expiry of some old contracts.

Profits in the collection business were ahead of expectations, reflecting the benefits of sustained management action. Collection remains a key focus in securing increased input tonnages for the business.

Total share of joint ventures’ EBITDA (comprising VLGM (including IFRIC 12 interest), TPSCo and Lakeside) was up 0.7% to £41.4 million (2013/14 £41.1 million). Total share of joint ventures’ profit after tax was £4.9 million, up £1.2 million from 2013/14. 

(a) Viridor Laing (Greater Manchester) (VLGM)

The 25 year Greater Manchester Waste PFI contract (being delivered through VLGM) is the UK’s largest ever combined waste and renewable energy project. The company is a joint venture between Viridor and John Laing Infrastructure. Operation of the associated facilities is being carried out on a sub-contract basis by Viridor.

Solid recovered fuel produced from the waste is used to generate heat and power at Runcorn I ERF, which has been built primarily for the Greater Manchester Waste PFI contract. 

As part of the VLGM contract, a separate contractor was mandated to construct 43 facilities. All of the facilities have now been formally taken over by Viridor. Final acceptance of certain facilities remains subject to fulfilment of the required contractual terms. 

Viridor’s share of VLGM’s EBITDA was £3.0 million (2013/14 £2.5 million). Viridor’s share of IFRIC 12 interest was £12.1 million (2013/14 £12.5 million). 

(b) Runcorn I (TPSCo)

Viridor’s share of TPSCo’s EBITDA was £8.2 million (2013/14 £10.9 million) reflecting higher costs during final commissioning.

The Runcorn I ERF was taken over in January 2015. 

(c) Lakeside

Lakeside, the first of Viridor’s ERF projects, continues to outperform its financial close assumed power generation and waste processing targets. Viridor’s share of Lakeside’s EBITDA was £18.1 million (2013/14 £15.2 million). 

Results in 2014/15 benefited from different scheduled outage timing (H1 2013/14 vs H1 2015/16) and continued good performance.

Viridor employs over 3,000 people across the UK. The achievements, professionalism and innovation of its employees remain a great source of pride to the company. Their health, safety and welfare remain its top priority.

Health and safety

Viridor has set itself the goal of making a step change in the way it manages health, safety and welfare, and is working hard to promote a ‘zero incidents’ safety culture throughout the organisation. Central to its approach are clear, effective and regular campaigns and communications supporting health, safety and working well, such as the high profile ‘Stop & Think’ campaign originally developed in the South West and now rolled out across all company sites. There was a continued fall in the RIDDOR incidence rate, with 28 reportable incidents giving a rate of 889 per 100,000 employees (2013/14 1,197). 

A tragic incident which resulted in a fatality of a Viridor employee in early June 2015 is under investigation. Our thoughts are with his friends, family and colleagues.

Employee development

Leading organisations across the world recognise that skills, professional development and retention are of crucial importance, and good employee engagement is becoming one of the key differentiators in business. Engaged employees and high-performing teams help drive safety, productivity, profitability and customer focus. Viridor has renewed its focus in this area utilising the well-respected Gallup Q12 engagement programme. Following its first company-wide Q12 survey and a series of staff roadshows sharing the company strategy and key business priorities, local level action planning is now helping to drive positive change and a focus on business improvements across the company. This is particularly timely as the company continues the implementation of its Enterprise Resource Platform throughout the business.

Viridor has comprehensive programmes of training and professional development to ensure its employees have the skills, expertise and support to meet the demands of the business. 5,887 training days were delivered across the company during the year. Viridor currently has 15 full-time apprenticeships and an additional five new apprenticeships have been confirmed for Viridor’s ERFs. A new intake has been confirmed for the innovative Viridor Foundation Management Degree course, developed in partnership with Edge Hill University. The first cohort of 15 managers successfully graduated in 2014, with 25 due to graduate in 2015/16.

The company continues to strive towards a workforce that is representative of the communities in which it operates and to ensure a pipeline of talent for the future needs of the business. 

Viridor’s employee performance appraisal system incorporates the company’s six core behavioural competencies, designed to ensure the right managerial skill sets. Succession planning is also underway across the business.

Of Viridor’s largest customer groups, local authorities account for 39% of the company’s revenue (2013/14 31%). No individual authority accounts for more than 12% (2013/14 12%). Viridor’s ROC energy contracts account for 7% of revenue (2013/14 7%), primarily with one customer.

The company’s operational facilities in England and Wales require environmental permits to be issued and regulated by the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales. In Scotland similar waste management licences or pollution prevention and control permits are issued and regulated by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. Viridor maintains a positive and proactive working relationship with these and other regulatory bodies by means of close ongoing liaison and active management of any issues arising under permit conditions at either site or strategic levels. For example, Viridor continues to share live monitoring data from operational sites with the regulators via custom-developed web portals to ensure a transparent and resource-saving approach to monitoring and regulation.

Viridor has strengthened its approach to procurement and supply chain relationships during the year with the formation of a new procurement function and more efficient protocols. These include a formal policy on sustainable procurement utilising whole life costings, ensuring clear environmental and social responsibility criteria for goods and services procured, and delivering long-term value for Viridor and, in turn, its customers.

Excellent progress has been achieved in the realisation and delivery of its ERF business. Five major facilities became operational in the financial year adding to the existing Lakeside and Bolton operational ERF assets. Three others are under construction and Notice to Proceed with the construction of Beddington ERF has been issued.

The drivers and demand for recycling in the UK remain strong, although Viridor remains appropriately cautious about the future prospects for recyclate prices. The company is nonetheless strongly positioned and remains focused on its ITOO programme to maximise revenues and achieve efficiencies to sustain margins. A further decline in recyclate prices and UK power prices would impact profitability next year.

Viridor’s EBITDA figure in 2014/15 exceeded 2013/14 as expected. The operational ERFs along with those that are under construction are expected to contribute c. £100 million to Viridor’s EBITDA in 2016/17. Viridor is also well positioned with its recycling, contracts and collections assets and services.