British utility buying BC's Pinnacle Renewable Energy

UK power utility to acquire BC based wood pellet producer

Pinnacle's export terminal in Prince Rupert. | Pinnacle

A British utility that has been phasing out coal with wood pellets for producing power in the UK has announced plans to buy B.C. based Pinnacle Renewable Energy (TSX:PL) for $385 million.

Pinnacle’s stock jumped 11% in value Monday on the news, with shares rising by more than $1 per share, from $10.03 to $11.10.

Drax is offering Pinnacle $11.30 per share, which is 13% premium on Pinnacle's share price at close of markets Friday. The company is also assuming Pinnacle’s debt, which would bring the total value of the sale to $831 million, when debt obligations are included.The sale must be approved by shareholders of both companies. The transaction is expected to be finalized by early to mid-April.

Pinnacle owns and operates eight wood pellet plants in western Canada, and one in Alabama. Pinnacle also owns  the Westview terminal in Prince Rupert.

The company uses mostly wood waste from forestry to produce wood pellets, although it lately has come under fire from the environmental group for using whole live trees.

While burning wood pellets to generate power produces CO2 emissions, it is considered a renewable energy source, since trees grow back and take up carbon dioxide when they regrow.

Pinnacle currently produces about 2.9 million tonnes of wood pellets annually. Drax is already one of its largest customers. It buys about 900,000 tonnes of pellets annually from Pinnacle.

Pinnacle has $7 billion worth of long-term contracts with buyers in a number of countries.

"We will absolutely honour those contracts," Drax CEO Will Gardiner told BIV News. "That's one of the real attractions of this deal for us is being to actually get access to those contracts, to those new customers."

Pinnacle employs 498 people in North America, 237 of whom are in B.C. Drax said he doesn't expect a lot of changes to the Canadian operations, once the deal is concluded.

Drax has been phasing out the use of coal in the UK to produce power. Its target is to end the burning of coal in the UK entirely by next month.

Drax does not expect to use coal after March 2021, but will ensure its two remaining coal units remain available until September 2022 in line with its existing Capacity Market agreements,” the company said.

“Pinnacle’s board of directors has unanimously determined that the transaction represents the best course of action for the company and its shareholders,” Pinnacle CEO Duncan Davies said in a news release.

“At the same time, the combination of Pinnacle and Drax will create a global leader in sustainable biomass with the vision, technical expertise and financial strength to help meet the growing demand for renewable energy products around the world.”

(Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrecrly stated Pinnacle owns an export terminal in North aVancouver. In fact the terminal is owned by Fibreco Export Inc. Pinnacle is a terminal customer.)