Helius Energy taps shareholders for cash as Speyside site heats up

The Glen Grant distillery is one of those whose waste will be burned at the new Rothes power plant. Picture: TSPL
The Glen Grant distillery is one of those whose waste will be burned at the new Rothes power plant. Picture: TSPL
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HELIUS Energy, the renewable power developer behind a plant to convert whisky waste to energy on Speyside, yesterday unveiled plans to raise nearly £6 million to start building a biomass power station in Bristol.

The Aim-quoted firm will place £5.2m-worth of shares at 12p a share with its existing investors and will offer shareholders the chance to buy further shares worth a total of £1.06m. Shares closed down 0.5p at 14.5p last night,

Helius is also carrying out a debt-for-equity swap with Perthshire investor Angus MacDonald, under which £500,000 borrowed from him in September will be turned into shares.

Following the fund-raising deal, MacDonald – who sold his E-Financial publishing group to Dow Jones in 2007 for £79m – will see his stake in the firm reduced from 18.08 per cent to 17.1 per cent after he agreed not to take part in the open offer.

But shipping line heir Alastair Salvesen’s holding will rise from 22.95 per cent to 24.9 per cent. Stagecoach founder Ann Gloag also has a stake of around 5.5 per cent in the company.

Chief executive Adrian Bowles said: “We are pleased to have secured this capital investment, which clearly demonstrates that investors continue to have confidence in Helius’ ability to deliver high quality projects.”

Helius told shareholders that it would use to cash to help 
finalise a funding deal for its proposed biomass power station at Avonmouth, near Bristol.

Securing funding for the project from a club of banks has taken longer than expected due to delays by the UK 
government on announcements about electricity market reforms.

A debt and equity package to fund construction at Avonmouth is still expected to be in place by the end of next month, the firm said, with construction expected to start later this year.

Helius also revealed that it now does not expect to receive £8.8m from RWE relating to the development of a biomass plant at Stallingborough, which Helius sold to the German power company in 2008.

Construction of the £60m plant at Rothes – which will burn solid waste from distilleries, known as “draff” – is “substantially complete” and will be handed over later this year.

The plant – which will give Helius its first ongoing revenues – will provide heat and power an existing animal feed factory, which is owned by the Combination of Rothes Distilleries (Cord), a joint venture set up in 1904 to process whisky waste.

Cord handles by-products from 16 Speyside distilleries and is owned by BenRiach Distillery, Chivas Brothers, John Dewar & Sons, Diageo Distilling, Edrington Group, Glen Grant Distillery and Inver House Distillers.

News of the fund-raising came as operating losses at 
Helius widened to £11.6m in the year to 30 September from £757,000 after impairment charges. Sales grew to £310,000 from £148,000.