Profits down sharply, but Green Plains CEO says ethanol in demand

Source: By Russell Hubbard / World-Herald staff writer • Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015

Despite a sharp drop in profit, Green Plains Chief Executive Todd Becker said demand for ethanol is strong.

As much as 1 billion gallons of U.S. ethanol will be exported this year, Becker said. That’s about the total annual production of Omaha-based Green Plains, which operates 12 U.S. plants.

About 20 percent of the company’s production in coming months is slated for export, he said.

That rosy picture contrasts sharply with the company’s second-quarter results. Profit during the quarter dropped 75 percent, to $7.8 million, from $32.3 million in the same period a year earlier.

Shares of Green Plains rose 1.1 percent Wednesday, or 27 cents, to close at $23.92. Company shares fell about 40 percent in the 12 months leading up to Tuesday’s earnings report.

Analysts attributed the weaker-than-expected figures to volatile corn prices and reduced ethanol production during the quarter. Operating income at the ethanol-production unit, the company’s largest, fell 39 percent to $18.2 million. Ethanol selling prices fell 23 percent, the company said on a conference call with analysts and investors Wednesday.

“Ethanol revenues were down significantly — as expected — but outlook is now more stable,” Wedbush Securities analyst David Rose said.

A bright spot: Gas stations are adding more pumps that dispense E15 gasoline, which is made of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent clear gas. Green Plains, which is the fourth-largest U.S. ethanol producer, said Wednesday that large retail chains soon will be adding “200 to 300 stores at a time” to the list of stations offering E15.