Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mainstream may become publicly traded in 2018



Airtricity founder O'Connor aims to float Mainstream in 2018

Gavin McLoughlin Twitter


Eddie O'Connor, Chief Executive of Mainstream Renewable Power Photo: Tom Burke1Eddie O'Connor, Chief Executive of Mainstream Renewable Power Photo: Tom Burke

Eddie O'Connor wants to float Mainstream Renewable Power on the stock market by the end of 2018.

The company swung to an after-tax profit of €96m last year after losing almost €50m in 2014, and is now looking to raise at least €100m in equity, saying that there has been an "indication of a significant level of appetite to become part of the Mainstream growth story from third-party institutional and strategic investors.

"I think 2018 would seem to be to be a reasonable time to pitch a flotation. We'd be catholic about when the company goes. If the price is right, well then you'd consider whatever. But currently our thinking would be that we access the capital markets. This is a very very hungry business for cash," O'Connor, who founded Airtricity and is Mainstream's co-founder and chief executive, told the Sunday Independent.

The business has long been mulling a stock market flotation but delayed the plan as it went through a restructuring process that saw the business realigned to focus on developing markets. Last year, the company sold an offshore project for £82.9m.

It has not guided a price to potential equity investors, O'Connor said. PJT Partners has been tasked with leading the process.

"We've talked about raising this equity money, and €100m has been mentioned. If somebody came in and offered us €200m, we would say we could accelerate... we would welcome that," O'Connor said.

The company said it aims to have 1,000 megawatts (MW) of assets under construction this year.

It said three projects in South Africa are under construction and have been transferred to a joint venture with investment company Actis, triggering a cash payment of €28m.

Another joint venture in Chile has been awarded contracts to build and operate wind projects of 300MW.

O'Connor said the company's revenues for 2016 will "by and large" be driven by the successful completion of projects in its pipeline.

Last year, Mainstream won contracts for 1,250 megawatts of projects, O'Connor said.

"We're going to enter in to a number of other competitions. That 1,000 [that the company aims to have under construction this year] won't be all that we've won. We'll still have to build or sell another 250 megawatts from what was won last year.

"We anticipate winning the same, or possibly a lot more, of what was won last year. There are auctions coming up.

"It's not as if you live from hand to mouth, very few people would have the quality of projects that we have."

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Illinois Education Chief Decides Against Chicago Schools Takeover

Illinois Education Chief Decides Against Chicago Schools Takeover

Governor Bruce Rauner launched a probe of the nation’s third-largest school system in February.

CHICAGO, May 6 (Reuters) – Chicago’s cash-strapped public school district is not in sufficiently bad financial shape to warrant a state takeover, according to an Illinois State Board of Education staff report.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner launched a probe of the nation’s third-largest school system in February, contending it could lead to state oversight and a suspension of borrowing at debt-dependent, “junk”-rated Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

However, the report from state school Superintendent Tony Smith, posted on the board’s website ahead of a monthly meeting scheduled for Wednesday, said CPS does not meet “any of the criteria” to be certified in financial difficulty.

“The district has not realized two consecutive years of negative operating fund balances nor is it forecasted in this model,” the report stated.

It noted that negative operating balances are possible in fiscal 2018 and 2019.

“It’s clear in our analysis CPS has financial challenges and a spending problem,” state board spokeswoman Laine Evans said on Friday. “However, at this time they do not meet the criteria for certification of financial difficulty, as defined per statute. ISBE will continue to monitor the situation and the district’s finances.

The state education board’s recommendation undercuts a series of strident remarks made by Republican Rauner in January and February, asserting at one point the school system faced a “financial disaster” that would prevent it from remaining solvent through the end of its fiscal year in June.

The staff report also comes as Illinois remains in a crippling 11-month budget deadlock between Rauner and Democrats who control the state legislature. The impasse has hit the state’s higher education and social service systems particularly hard. Illinois is the only U.S. state without a full operating budget.

Rauner’s office continued to insist on Friday that CPS is in a financial mess.

“You don’t need an actuary or an accountant to know CPS has financial problems, otherwise the district wouldn’t be repeatedly asking the state for an additional half a billion dollars. It’s clear the district is in financial distress,” said Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly in a statement.

CPS said the report vindicated the district.

“This decision demonstrates that Governor Rauner’s attempts to drive CPS into bankruptcy are misguided and wrong. While CPS faces a $1 billion budget deficit next year, it can be solved if we all work together, as we are committed to doing,” said a statement from CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner.

The deficit is mostly due to escalating annual pension payments that will reach $676 million this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The district’s efforts to gain an additional $480 million in state dollars to pay its pension bill became entangled in the ongoing impasse between Rauner and Democrats.

CPS officials, who have maintained the district is exempt under Illinois law from state oversight, are calling for a revamp of the state school funding formula to ensure poor children are not short-changed.

The decision not to declare the district in financial difficulty could suggest recognition by the Rauner-appointed state school board that it lacked proper legal footing to take over CPS in the first place, a Democratic legislative source said.

In April, Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion that the state lacks the authority to take control of the school system’s finances, including its ability to borrow to help fund operational costs.

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Boone County Board, community prepare feedback on Great Lakes Basin Railroad

By Adam Poulisse
Staff writer

Posted May. 7, 2016 at 9:55 PM

BELVIDERE — Boone County Board members, with the help of the people they represent, are forming an official county statement that addresses concerns about a controversial railroad project that would expedite freight service at the expense of thousands of acres of farmland.
County Board members dedicated time at four committee meetings last week to discuss and hear from the public how the Great Lakes Basin Railroad — a 275-mile route that would cut through Boone County and other areas in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin — could affect the resources and safety of their home turf.
The feedback will be sent to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, a federal regulatory authority. The board will make a final decision to either approve or deny the project, or approve with conditions, following an environmental impact study. The deadline for feedback is June 15.
“We (have) to be careful about what we say because if we say, flat-out, ‘Don’t let it happen,’ and they decide they’re going to go ahead with it, we really have no place to talk," Planning, Zoning and Building Committee Chairman Denny Ellingson said during Wednesday's committee meeting. “We want to get this right and word it in a manner that says we are opposed."
The conversations at the committee level continue this week with the Public Safety Committee at 6 p.m. Monday, Finance Committee at 6 p.m. Tuesday and City-County Coordinating Committee at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. All meetings will take place in the Boone County Boardroom, 1212 Logan Avenue, Belvidere.
"It's more opportunity for the public to speak, and it gives board members the opportunity to come up with items the Surface Transportation Board needs to look at," County Administrator Ken Terrinoni said. "It's a way to engage the public, but also a way for board members to list all the things they want studied."
It all leads up to a public County Board retreat on Thursday, during which the board will meet as a whole and use the discussion at committee meetings to boil concerns down into one statement, according to board Chairman Bob Walberg. A board resolution stating the county's opposition to the project could be drafted.
"It's very clear that the board has a definite mandate to base their decision on evidence," Walberg said. "If we do a good job offering all our concerns, then there's a chance they might say the environmental impact is limiting for the project."
Board member Cathy Ward — who serves on the Administrative, Health and City/County committees — attended all committee meetings last week. She said it's important the county use the feedback to declare an official position against the railroad.

"Our people have been extremely eloquent (explaining) the loss of farmland, the loss of property, the dangers," she said. "I'm very proud of the people of Boone County who have stood up on this."

The LaSalle County Board in Illinois and Lake County Plan Commission in Indiana already have drafted resolutions in opposition to the project.
LaSalle County cites the loss of farmland and an increase in emergency-response times as key concerns.
The Lake County Plan Commission's resolution calls the proposed railroad "unwarranted and unnecessary."
Members of the Boone County Roads and Capital Improvements Committee are concerned about railroad crossings, drainage from construction, and other issues during the construction process.
"(Drainage could) have effects on the farmers' fields but roadways, too, and their deterioration," County Board member Karl Johnson said. "That’s an important aspect that often gets overlooked.”
Organizations such as Citizens Against the Great Lakes Basin Railroad Project have formed to provide a unified voice for the opposition. The group's signs can be found throughout the area. Hundreds of residents in Boone County and beyond attended a public scoping meeting on April 19, during which they shared their disapproval with members of the Surface Transportation Board.
Ang Daniels owns a 60-acre farm at Marengo and Denny roads in Garden Prairie; she raises corn, alfalfa, soybeans and cattle. The railroad, she said, would decimate most of the property that's been in her family for generations.
She's also concerned about delays in emergency-response times if the railroad cuts through the county.
"It'll be a (safety concern) if we don't do something to stop it, or say we're opposed," she told the Roads and Capital Improvements Committee.
Adam Poulisse: 815-987-1344;; @adampoulisse


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