Biofuels plant Ensus has been bought by a German firm, in a £11.6m share deal that will see it benefit from £50m of investment from its new owners.
CropEnergies AG has acquired the £250m Wilton-based Ensus facility in a deal completed through the issue of 2.25 million new CropEnergies shares, priced at €5.98, £5.15 each.
Ensus started up its plant at the Wilton site in 2010, producing bioethanol used for greener road fuel together with high protein animal feed and CO2 for the food and drinks industries.
Employing around 100 people, the firm also supports some 2,000 jobs in the wider supply chain including farmers, hauliers, engineering support and storage firms.
Former owners The Carlyle Group will become a shareholder in CropEnergies, which intends to restart the plant once essential maintenance work is completed.
Peter Sopp, chief executive officer of Ensus, said: “We are delighted with the news that Ensus will become a key part of CropEnergies existing biofuels production network.
“As one of the most successful bioethanol producers in the industry, CropEnergies brings huge expertise and experience in this field, as well as a strong commitment to invest further in the Ensus operations in the UK. It is great news for our employees, customers and suppliers.”
Sopp also paid tribute to the workforce, adding: “They have been magnificent throughout some really challenging years, showing great loyalty and patience at times when the plant has been offline.
“This puts us on a much stronger footing and means we can look to the future with real confidence.”
Headquartered in Yarm, the Ensus facility has an annual capacity of 400,000 litres of ethanol which is used to make greener road fuels and also produces 350,000 tonnes a year of dried high protein animal feed for the farming industry and 300,000 tonnes a year of carbon dioxide for the food and drinks industry.
But the plant, which cost £250m to build, went offline for a second time in May 2011 for “a number of business and economic reasons”.
In a hiatus that lasted 15 months, 100 staff were retained on full pay.
In April the troubled biofuel plant stopped production for the third time in three years because of the “slow development” of the UK and European markets for green bioethanol, rising gas prices and last year’s poor wheat harvest.
CropEnergies meanwhile is one of the largest bioethanol producers in Europe. Founded in Mannheim, Germany in 2006, the company is also a member of Suzucker group, the largest sugar producer in Europe, and it has production facilities in Germany, Belgium, the UK, and France as well as trading offices in the USA and Brazil.
North East MEP Fiona Hall welcomed news of the buyout.
Hall said: “This is great news for the workers and great news for Teesside. Having worked closely with Ensus for the last couple of years, I know the challenges they have faced and I’m delighted they have navigated their way to a positive outcome.
“CropEnergies have pedigree and expertise in the bioethanol industry and clearly see the long-term potential for the site.
“I’m sure the staff are keen to get back to work and I look forward to seeing the plant back up and running at full capacity later in the year.”
Redcar Lib Dem MP Ian Swales said: “This sale looks like the best outcome for jobs and the local economy.
“I am especially pleased at the news that £50m will be invested in the plant to make it even more competitive and I’m sure the new owners will also want to be good neighbours for the local community.”