Irish-owned ethanol group records 143% rise in profit in 2019

Irish-owned ClonBio Group recorded a 143% increase in profit before tax in 2019, increasing from €39 million in 2018 to €95 million in 2019.

Turnover in the period increased 26% to €361 million. The group’s primary asset is a biorefinery under the name Pannonia Bio, located in Hungary.

The increase reflects a 22% rise in average ethanol prices in the period as well as volume growth and “continuing innovation and margin improvement” across ethanol, high-protein animal nutrition and corn oil.

Over €65 million was invested by ClonBio in 2019 marking the first phase of a three-year, €150 million investment programme over the period 2019-2021, according to the firm.

When used in transport, Pannonia Bio’s ethanol leads to approximately 800,000t per year of CO2 savings, the company claims.

Post year end, reduced travel as a result of Covid 19 has resulted in a substantial reduction in demand for ethanol as a biofuel and increased demand as the vital alcohol constituent in hand sanitisers and other disinfectants.

Commenting, ClonBio founder and executive chairman Mark Turley said: “2019 saw a significant increase in ClonBio profits on foot of strong ethanol pricing in the period.

Perhaps even more importantly it underpinned the importance of biorefineries for clean energy, clean food and now as a key input in sanitiser and other disinfectants.

“As an Irish-owned company…ClonBio is enormously disappointed that Ireland has continued to drag its feet on biofuels.

“The commercial and environmental rationale for urgently adopting E10 [10% ethanol: 90% petrol] is compelling,” the founder claimed.

“More than half of Europe now drives on E10, which can be introduced in Ireland at the stroke of the pen.

Ireland’s reticence is inexplicable as E10 can deliver the same greenhouse gas savings as 100,000 electric vehicles [EVs] relative to petrol on its own. That’s 20 times the number of new EV’s bought in Ireland in 2019 or 10 times Ireland’s entire EV fleet at year end 2019.

“By comparison, 100,000 EVs would cost €1.1 billion to deliver in subsidies and rebates whilst E10 can be seamlessly delivered immediately at no cost to the Exchequer.”

Outlook

Turning to outlook for 2020, Turley said: “Notwithstanding the diversion of much of Pannonia’s ethanol output to support the fight against Covid-19, the pandemic’s impact on transport driven demand is having a deflationary impact on ethanol pricing that will reduce profitability in 2020.

“Beyond Covid-19, we are currently progressing an investment programme of over €150 million across a range of existing and new product areas, most notably in solar and in innovative products and materials that are entirely new to Europe’s markets,” the founder added.

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