Global Energy Giant Abengoa Moves To Prevent Bankruptcy
The Spanish renewable-energy giant Abengoa, which applied for preliminary creditor protection in November, is laying off staff and halting some operations, a company spokeswoman tells ENR. But its two Southwest U.S. solar thermal plants are operating, according to the company. The U.S. government is the company’s single-largest debt holder, through U.S. Energy Dept. loan guarantees for the two facilities.
The Seville-based conglomerate, with a 24,000-person labor force in 50 countries, posted a nine-month loss last month and then failed to conclude an equity stake deal with Spanish steelmaker Corporacion Gestamp that was to have infused necessary capital. Abengoa has less than four months to renegotiate with lenders its outstanding debt of about $22.1 billion. If bankruptcy happens, it will be the largest in Spain’s history. Abengoa’s creditors, which met with the company Dec. 14, insist that it secure alternative financing. One lender seeks a possible Spanish government loan, Reuters reported.
Through its construction subsidiary Abeinsa SA, Abengoa is No. 54 on ENR’s list of the Top 250 Global Contractors, with more than $6 billion in global revenue, all but around $200 million from outside Spain. It is the second-largest global power contractor, according to ENR data, and is first among worldwide builders in transmission and distribution, cogeneration and solar power markets.
KPMG, Abengoa’s adviser in the restructuring, told Reuters the company needs $496 million in liquidity, including at least $100 million by Dec. 30 to pay salaries and continue operations. But the banks want the company to start selling operations, including a 47% stake in Abengoa Yield, through which it operates U.S. assets. Representatives for the solar facilities in Arizona and California say they will remain in operation. An Abengoa spokeswoman told ENR the firm continues to operate all interests in the U.S. under Abengoa Yield, including the solar thermal plants and “all bioenergy and EPC assets.”
But the firm is considering various scenarios, including temporary halts in operations. It has already laid off staff at its cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kan., says Biomass Magazine, and closed its corn-based ethanol plant in Colwich, Kan. Abengoa also operates a $250- million ethanol plant in Chesterfield, Mo., with about 320 staff at its U.S. bioenergy unit headquarters there. The firm declined to confirm or deny the layoffs and closures. but the spokeswoman told ENR layoffs will be part of a restructuring plan. “Abengoa is studying case by case its more than 250 projects in over 50 countries,” she says.
Abengoa has withheld a $30-million financing payment to build a $1.1-billion thermo-solar plant in southern Israel, and its Israeli contractor partner told ENR it seeks a replacement. But the Abengoa spokeswoman says the firm will continue work on what is set to be the world’s first large-scale solar-powered desalination plant in Saudi Arabia.
In Latin America, where Abeinsa is ranked the third-largest contractor by ENR, its parent is closing some operations and laid off 2,300 in Brazil earlier this month, although it will keep 400 employees there to continue some work. But the firm told Brazilian power regulators that it had stopped building and operating its concession on 3,900 miles of new transmission lines for wind farms and was looking to sell the concessions or find a construction partner, Reuters said on Dec. 14.
Even with the uncertainties, Abengoa last month announced wins in Abu Dhabi to build a 220-MW cogeneration plant, the firm’s first in the U.A.E., and a $200-million contract to build Jamaica’s largest combined-cycle plant.