Orbite Aluminae Inc. (OTCQX:EORBF) Q2 2014 Earnings Conference Call July 30, 2014 10:00 AM ET
Glenn R. Kelly – President and Chief Executive Officer
Jacques Bédard – Vice President Finance and Chief Financial Officer
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Orbite Aluminae Fiscal 2014 Second Quarter Results Conference Call. Considering most of the company’s shareholders are English speaking, the management presentation will be held in English only.
Questions will be answered in the language of the question. A transcript of this call will be available in English and French, on Orbite’s website this coming Thursday and a recording of the webcast will also be made available on this site.
Before we begin, I would like to remind everyone that certain matters discussed in today’s conference call, or answers that maybe given to questions that could constitute forward-looking that are subject to risks and uncertainties relating to Orbite’s future operational results or business performance.
Actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in those forward-looking statements. The risk factors that could affect results are detailed in Orbite’s periodic results and public filings, which you can access in SEDAR’s database found at www.sedar.com.
Please note that Orbite disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements discussed today and at this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation we will conduct a question-and-answer session instructions will be provided at that time for you to queue up for questions.
(Operator Instructions) I would like to remind everyone that this conference call is being recorded on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 10.00 AM Eastern Time.
I would now like to turn the meeting over to Mr. Glenn Kelly, President and Chief Executive Officer. Please go ahead Mr. Kelly.
Glenn R. Kelly
Thank you, Good morning everyone and thank you for being with us on the call. I’m joined today by Jac Bédard, our CFO. As for usual today call is divided into three parts, I will start with an operational review of the quarter and an update on our HPA project following which Jac, will discuss the financial. I will then return with some forward-looking comments prior to opening the floor for questions.
We continued to execute well against our 12 months project timeline for the completion of our 3 tonne per day high-purity alumina facility in Cap-Chat, Quebec. A project to build the first of its kind industrial facility has many moving parts related to technology, engineering, equipment, construction, finances and personnel as well as commercial outreach, we are progressing well on all of these fronts.
On the technology side, we continue with the optimization of the operational parameters of our process, and much of this work was done at our Technology Development Center here at Montreal with confirmation through limited production runs at the HPA facility in Cap-Chat. This optimization work and the process will continue in the coming months, with the final fine tuning stages during the commissioning and the start-up of the plant in December.
The first objective of these efforts is to optimize the process with regards to product quality, production yields, and operating costs. The second objective of the production runs is to produce samples for shipment to potential customers, to tie in with their supplier qualification processes. This is also where another capability of our Technology Development Center will be used namely for product customization to ensure our products will meet the requirement of the niches we will be going after.
The result obtained through the optimization work are important input for detailed engineering on which we are progressing well and close to finalizing with our partner Seneca. The main development with regards to equipment supply this past quarter has been progress on the calcinator from Outotec as we reported recently the elements of this system we sourced from Outotec in Germany arrived in Québec are stored in the Cap-Chat area and will make their way to the plant site in accordance with our construction schedule needs.
This shipment represents roughly 50% of the total value of the calcinator consisting of some refractory and solid handling devices, as well as monitoring and controlled instrumentation.
The preshaped refractory bricks and the special mortar all 300,000 pounds of it have also been delivered to historic site near Cap-Chat. The remainder of the calcination system, predominately the three vessels will be arriving from the Outotec facility in Burlington, Ontario. Fabrication is scheduled to be completed well prior to the planned installation of the calcinator on site.
We keep close tab on the production of the calcinator and all reports relating to progress and quality have been extremely positive. In further technology development we performed additional calcination trials at Outotec’s pilot center in Germany to confirm our proprietary operating parameters determined at our Technology Development Center, and to provide supplier data to develop process control logic for the calcination system.
We’ve also initiated the procurement process for the other type of equipment as well as initiated the tender process for plant construction, refractory installation & curing, as well as for vessel fabrication. We’ve recently awarded the contract for the structural portion of the plant with the other major contracts expected to be awarded shortly.
We’re now gearing up towards the construction phase and have started to prepare the site for the arrival of the equipment and construction crew. And we anticipate plant construction to commence in early August subsequent to the Québec construction holidays, which are ongoing from July 19 through August 3.
As a result of the progress made we’re now able as an origination to gear up towards commercial production. Important milestones in this respect were the hiring of a plant manager, a director of engineering as well as the appointment of seven plant operators and a mechanical technician. The plant operators were all graduates of the 16 months AEC Operation and Control of Industrial Processes program offered in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts by Groupe Collegia in collaboration with Emploi-Québec and Orbite confirming our commitment to building up a local workforce.
The final part of the puzzle is finances. During the quarter we completed a $10 million equity investment from Investissement Québec and subsequent to the quarter a U.S. institutional investor exercised its Series X subscription rights investing an additional $10 billion. This placement was initially postponed at our request when our share price was around $0.28 and we completed a placement at $0.50. With this strengthening of our financial position we are now well capitalized and continue on schedule with the investments in our HPA facility.
To summarize once again we’re progressing well against our 12 months timeline towards commencement of commercial production in the first quarter of 2015.
That concludes my review of the quarter and I will now hand the call over to Jac, for the financial.
Thank you Glenn, and welcome everyone. As per usual I will focus on areas we consider most relevant in assessing our financial health, which are our cash balance, liabilities, financing and burn rate.
As of June 30, 2014 we held $9 million in cash and short-term investments, up by $3.7 million as compared to $5.3 million as of March 31, 2014. The increase was mainly due to the $10 million equity financing from Investissement Québec offset partially by cash used in operating and investing activity. As we’ve mentioned in previous call in the second half of 2013, we implemented a rigorous cost control program, which continues to-date, as a result cash used in operations our burn rate, felled from $4.1 million for Q2 of last year to $3.3 million for the Q2 of this year.
Cash used in operating activities increased by $800,000 to $5.6 million, the difference attributable mainly to an increase in non-cash working capital items. Cash used during the quarter is a reflection mainly of our investments in the construction of our HPA facility as well as in our Research and Development, General and Administrative and HPA plant operating expenses.
In relation to the $10 million funding by Investissement Quebec, we issued 35.7 million units at a price of $0.28 per unit with each unit comprising one common share and one half of one common share purchase warrant. Each full warrant entitle the purchase of one common share at a price of $0.33 for 36 months from the date of closing. We’re pleased that the Investissement Quebec is a strong and committed long-term shareholder supporting our efforts to commercialize a truly unique technology.
As we announced on July 11, subsequent to the quarter pre-capital out of the U.S. exercise a Series X subscription rights and made a $10 million investment in the form of convertible debentures carrying a 7.5% coupon and a conversion price of $0.50. Also, the holder received 13 million share purchase warrants, each warrant entitling the holder to purchase one share for a period of three years at a price of $0.60.
Pro forma this investment, as of June 30, we held $19 million in cash and short-term investments and had $21.1 million in positive working capital. Our agreement with [creek] provides us with access to up to an additional $30 million subject to regulatory and shareholder approval. Overall, we have continued to strengthen our financial position compared to the same period in 2013 and have access to sufficient capital to pursue our commercialization program which continues to progress on time and within budget.
Compared to December 31, 2013 we recorded an $8.3 million decrease in non-trans liability predominately as a result of the conversion of December 2013 debentures into common shares offset partially by an increase in long-term debt resulting from the $3.8 million loan from Canada economic development.
While our HPA project progresses towards completion bringing us closer to revenue generation, we continue to maintain strong financial discipline. The additional funds received through the various financing initiative together with funds we make which may come from the conversion of the series wise perception rate constitute sufficient capital to see us through commercialization. So this is very exciting time for the company and we’re pleased with our progress to date.
So this concludes my comments and I will now hand the call back to Glenn.
Glenn R. Kelly
Thanks, Jack. I’d like to spend a little time on Orbite going forward before opening the floor to questions. When I joined the company a little over a year ago, Orbite was positioned and I’d say perceived as a company commercializing technology for the sustainable production of alumina notably smelter grade alumina. However, from the thorough review of our technology, our assets and our opportunities, it was clear that Orbite is about much more than alumina. As a result of this review, we have streamlined our activities into three distinct business lines.
First, specialty products, which for now is focused on high purity alumina. However, other specialty products such as rare earth and rare metals represent an even larger opportunity and we will be pursing these also. Second, waste monetization. This basically stands for turning ecological and economic liabilities into profitable assets by extracting all value from a waste source such as fly ash, red mud and mine tailings and returning only a small fraction of inert residue thereby remediating the original liability profitably without having to rely on legislation driven incentives. Third is our commodities initiative which we refer to smelter grade alumina as well as hematite and silica.
At our AGM, we requested and we’re given shareholder approval to change our name to Orbite Technologies. As I said, Orbite is above much more than alumina and we feel the new name as a much better reflection of this. We still have some legal and rebranding work to do including launching a brand new website and we believe the new name will become effective around mid to late September.
Getting back to what we do, our there business lines all represent substantial opportunities. HPA is a growing market and new opportunities in batteries and electronics screens are expected to accelerate demand for HPA products in the coming years. Rare earth and rare metals have become increasingly critical for a number of emerging technologies in the electronics and alternative energy fields with growing government attention on securing supply. Through our aluminous clay deposits we have access to substantial quantities of all of these eligible materials.
The potential in weight monetization is very significant also considering that more than 3 billion tons of red mud are lying around in ponds with no viable remediation technologies available as well as more than 500 million tons fly ash being produced annually. Our process which extracts all value from these potential feedstock, while only returning a fraction of the original material in the formative of an inert residue has the potential of being a game changer for the industry while addressing important cost, efficiency, supply and ecological issues in the process.
Finally, with our large and strategically located deposits of aluminous clay, we’re well positioned to pursue becoming a strategically located and low cost producer of smelter grade alumina. I mentioned it before, but it is important to note that there is substantial overlap between our business lines.
Red mud for example contains substantial quantities of alumina while smelter grade alumina is an important product from our plant red mud plants. Additionally, other products from red mud remediation or monetization will be specialty products such as rare earth and rare metals as can be found in our aluminous clay deposits. All of these represent important opportunities, but as I’ve said before it’s important that we purse these in a structured and prioritized manner.
My primary focus this year is on bringing our HPA facility to commercial production. However, this doesn’t mean we won’t already initiate work on our other initiatives. We’re actively working on waste monetization and continue our discussions with Veolia on formalizing our partnership going forward.
Waste monetization will not happen overnight. As with all new industrial processes, we will go through a scale up of the technology, following conversion of the HPA facility to the chloride process and the addition of a gallium and scandium separation train which will provide technology demonstration for our waste monetization and commodities processes. We will commence with the building of a commercial prototype for the monetization of red mud or fly ash. This is expected to be a plan for the fascinated process between a 100,000 tons to 200,000 tons per annum of feedstock.
Once built and completed, we expect to build the first full scale plant processing between 500,000 tons to 1 million tons per annum of feedstock. Subsequent to this, we intend on rolling out the technology on a global scale most likely through licensing on our deals. We’ve taken the first step from the commercialization process with the appointment of Diane Néron as our Director of Engineering. She will be spearheading the technical realization of our waste monetization initiatives even though presently she is heavily involved with our HPA project. The same scale of process applies to our commodities initiative, but this is our third priority.
So, in summary, we’re on track to deliver on our objectives. We’re executing very well against our HPA commercialization timeline and are starting to put in motion our other initiatives. We have access to sufficient capital and are witnessing a growing interest from potential customers and other stakeholders. We have the strong and growing team and we have a very capable and supportive Board of Directors.
We have identified a number of important opportunities and I believe we’re taking all the right steps to pursue these. That concludes our prepared remarks and I will now turn the call back over to the operator, who will poll participants for questions. Once again, thanks very much for your interest.
(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from (indiscernible). Your line is open.
Good morning, gentlemen.
Glenn R. Kelly
First off, I’d just like to say that it’s nice actually for shareholders to believe that you can get honest reporting from the Leadership Award again. It’s comforting as a shareholder to know that. First question I have is actually, I think a good news question, not related to HPA implementation or anything like that. But I believe I read a news release where you folks had identified that the ITC tax credits were starting to flow back to the company. I think it was $6 million that initially came back, which was good because I was always concerned that perhaps it wouldn’t show up.
And then also in the news release, I believe you indicated that you have a potential to get more than what I originally thought was a limit of $25 million. And so my question is on the going above the $25 million. Is that something and that’s specifically then been renegotiated to increase that limit?
And our all of the HPA investments eligible for that increase, and I’m specifically referencing, Glenn, this was before your time I think that – whoever was the contractor of HPA1, they got into some sort of dispute with Orbite and shareholders then woke up one morning and saw that we have been diluted $13 million or something and $0.94. So if you can just give some color on that, because I actually think that’s pretty good news, because then you had additional money, I’m assuming is beyond the convert requirement of 2012.
Glenn R. Kelly
Yes. Just I’ll try. And there are multiple questions in your questions. I’ll try and hit upon all of them. Yes, we did announce recently a first installment from revenue Quebec on the 2012 investment tax credits, which were for a total of $19.7 million. And it’s important to recall, this was a new program put into place by the government of Quebec. We were the first company to file under this program.
So there has been a learning curve for the government and its employees that revenue Quebec. But all of the administrative audits we’ve gone through with them are starting to pay off. We’ve gotten the first $6 million out of the $19.7 million and we are expecting to get additional payments as we move forward in 2014.
Your second point, and I’ll hit upon your third. The additional investments in Cap-Chat are covered by this program. And so that is why we expect to have, once the construction is completed, a total of around $30 million, slightly more than $30 million in total investment tax credits due from the government of Quebec. And those will notably be generated due to the investments that we are carrying out this year. So as you also noted, the 2012 and 2013 investments tax credits, including the $6 million that just came in, are deposited in a separate account and our security against the 2012 debentures. I hope that answers your questions.
It does well enough right now. So thanks for that. Another question I had is actually related to reporting and that kind of thing, because it was terribly deficient before and it’s dramatically improved. So I got a couple of simple questions. The governance documents that are on the Orbite website, are they still completely in force or have things changed?
Glenn R. Kelly
No, they are still completely in force. They’re fully complied with and to use your term and forth. I think you noted and we have given ourselves an objective to be much more timely in terms of our reporting back to our shareholders in the market. And I think today is a good example of that. We’re holding a conference call less than one month after the close of the quarter. It’s not always going to be like that, but our goal is to be within four to five to six weeks following the quarter, which is a normal cycle for companies such as ours.
Good. Then a question I had on what I would hope would be improved inventory. I’ve noticed the share count has risen in the quarter, you started the quarter at 251 million and the Q at 292 million, and I believe in your MD&A you’ve noted that it’s now up to 302 million shares.
The units to IQ, I understand, the options I understand, there is interest and debentures and the question I had is, when most debentures are exercised, I as a shareholder would like to see some reporting on that, because I’m assuming, and correct me if I’m wrong and this gets back to, I think the structure of the financing was creed, which in the world of debentures, I would actually say it’s even pretty intricate.
And my fundamental belief that this creed is not going to be holding the debentures, it’s beneficial to both you and them to have them changes in the shares for some cash. But I’m assuming when the debentures get exercised, is the cash coming into the company as part of that conversion process or not and if you could speak to any and all of that, it would be greatly appreciated.
Glenn R. Kelly
Okay. There are couple things, and you touched upon the increase in the share count is a result of especially over the last quarter of a variety of things. Warrants, we have had some warrants that have been exercised. Options that have been exercised, and as you noted, also the debentures that are being converted into shares.
Now, I think your proposal was for increased reporting to inform you when either of these happen and the share count goes up, couple of things, one that is not normal regulatory, it’s not a requirement. And two, I would use the December 2013 debenture offering as an example. We had over 150 debenture holders that converted their debentures into shares as per their own volition at the time that they wanted to.
We would have been reporting 150 times, back to the markets each time somebody converted. So it’s, I would think probably interesting for you to know would be very difficult to manage, and I’d say fundamentally, is definitely not a requirement of either the TSX or AMX. What we tend to do, and want to do is informed you through our quarterly reporting, after the increase in the share count. Does that answer your question, Claire?
Your next question comes from (Indiscernible). Your line is open.
Good morning, gentleman and congratulations on your achievements over the previous quarter. I like what Claire said, it’s – happy to hear that there is some positive and consecutive reporting over the last year. My question really pertains to the – the CapEx and the timeline for capital expenditures through to the end of the year towards the production of the first HPA ton per day plant facility. I’m just wondering if you can break it down a little further in terms of when the capital expenditures, and the amount of capital expenditure is expected, or maybe if you can just list the major items going forward until the end of the year?
Glenn R. Kelly
I am looking at our CFO here, but very general numbers, we have about $20 million left to go in investments, and between the time they are incurred, and the check is cut, there is lag depending whether it’s construction or it’s a – the ordering of a major piece of equipment.
One thing is definite. The remainder of the cost will all be incurred prior to the end of this year. The payments may lag by one month to a possible two months for a certain construction parts. And amounts that we will withhold until we are sure, things have been done correctly. But on a cash basis, all of the money will have left off these accounts by February of 2015. Does that answer your question, Ole?
It does. Thank you. I guess I’ll jump back in the queue, if I have any further questions, I’ll go and follow-up afterwards.
Glenn R. Kelly
Thanks very much.
(Operator Instruction) Your next question comes (indiscernible). Your line is open.
Hi, guys. Not to go back to the debenture reporting. Glenn, I’m fine with that. I would just like if the first series of debentures had been completely converted. It would be nice to actually get in and are saying that that was done. My question actually relates to, and it was something I think Jacques brought up, which was again very encouraging. I think he referenced something in the call about, with the collection of money that have come in so far you may be financially set to get HPA to up and running. And then that relates to my question on the next series of pre- to financing. Is that the series wide at $30 million, that the shareholder vote and is there any sort of estimate as to when that may be occurring?
Glenn R. Kelly
Okay. Two questions there. I think your first comment was on, I’d be nice to know when the first debentures completely converted. That is not information we are allowed to – I think it’s done, but it’s not information that’s proprietary to the people that hold those debentures. Once again I’d like to recall, we have more than 150 investors that participated in that. So we can do and we have to update the markets on a quarterly basis and we’ll do that. Once the whole debenture is converted, I think we will be allowed to report that. And in the financials I think we…
Yes, in the financial we’re actually disclosing how many convertible debentures that were converted. So you’re able to track the remaining amount to the…
Glenn R. Kelly
Now to the second question, on the HPA facility, I indicated to the previous caller that we have another $20 million to invest. If you look at pro forma where we are cash-wise that’s about what we have in our bank account right now. So we have enough money to finish the HPA facility as (indiscernible) are monthly burned. So we don’t have enough for both.
We require an estimated target to completion of the facility and start up and this is a very general member, about $10 million. So, an additional $10 million, which brings you to your next question, the Y Series, Y subscription rights that are held by Creed, that is subject to shareholder approval. We have the obligation to go back to shareholders and get – or notify the shareholders of the shareholder meeting with an 120 days of the exercise of the X. The X work exercised, if I remember correctly, July 11. So that would be some time in November. Prior to the 4th of November we would have to be going back or indicating to the shareholders that there would be a shareholders meeting.
So, do we require the full $30 million? I think I’ve answered that. The timeline foregoing to shareholders, I’ve answered that and maybe I would just add that we are always – we are very happy to have created an important investor, but we’re always evaluating and considering what other financing options are out there for us.
Good. And now I would expect it too and it’s all good. So some time no later than somewhere around November we should hear something.
Glenn R. Kelly
Yes. By the beginning of November shareholders will have then contacted publicly to say that there will be a shareholder meeting being held.
Your next question comes from Peter (indiscernible). Your line is open.
Yes, good morning. I want a turning from the financials to the future opportunities with waste management and possibly the earlier. You spend quite a bit of time talking about the red mud potential. I’m wondering if you could just give us an update or where stand on the fly ash side and whether that is on an accelerated schedule or whether it’s red mud before fly ash and what’s the potential, are they joint ventures or potential contracts on the fly ash side. Thank you.
Glenn R. Kelly
Thank you, Peter. Good to hear from you. I would say red mud and fly ash are as important in terms of our development priorities, I would personally say that I perceive more value on the fly ash than the red mud for a variety of reasons, the processing, the quantity of fly ash been produced, the areas in the world where fly ash has been produced, and just for the sake of the other listeners, fly ash is the residue left over from coal fired power generation, which as we know is very present in Europe and North America to a limited extend in Eastern and Western Canada and very heavily so in China.
So, our goal, and the nice thing about the Orbite technology is, as we further either red mud or fly ash we’re working at – on both at the same time, the technology platform is the same for both, pre-treatment is different a little bit, but that is a very minute part of the process.
So, fly ash is not on an accelerated schedule, it’s on a – I’d say an equivalent level of importance, relative to red mud, if I turn to partnerships and potential partners, the interest in fly ash is as great as the interest in red mud and people that want to work with us in one, want to work in the other so they see it as, one technology being applied to two industrial ways that have value, so when we seek the potential partners, we are not talking about only one or the only the other very often at their request we discuss both. Hope that answers your question, Peter.
So, would it be fair to assume then that in conversations, you may be having with the all year that the subject of fly ash is equally as important as red mud or other joint venture partners or partners that you are talking to where that’s a bigger-ish – as a bigger issue and red mud is less importance.
And my second question is regarding the rare earth and the rare metals, I am wondering if you could give us a little bit of insight as to time wise, assuming that you get into production of the HPA plant in the first quarter of 2015, just the rare earth and the rare metals follow immediately after that or is it a just a general part of the development, so that you will be able start working on it already in 2014. Thank you.
Glenn R. Kelly
Your first question for in terms of – is fly ash as important for either Veolia or other potential partners, I would say, on a general level once again, when people approach us or we discuss with potential partners, they want to speak about both of these residues, have essentially the same vitamins, if I can put it that way in terms of rare earth and rare metals, alumina, Titanium, Magnesium and in some cases and the process underline the extraction of these minerals is the same process, so in general Peter, the interest level is that high on both sides and generally people would want to work out and look at both at the same time, I say generally.
In terms of rare earth and rare metals recall, our planned for the HPA facility, step one is 3 tonnes per day of HPA, finalizing the purification section of our plants, which is what we are doing now. Step two is the conversion of the front end what we call the extraction unit of the plant to our chloride technology, which will then allow us to extract Scandium and Gallium.
The engineering for that as we phase out and finish the detailed engineering for the HPA, for the phase one with Seneca, we are going to embark on our preliminary engineering for the conversions of the chlorides process, and we expect to report back to the market at the end of this year, the beginning of next year, the cost and efforts to convert to the chlorides process.
Subsequent to that our plan was, in the second half and into the later part of 2015 start doing the construction and conversion work other front-end of the plan, so that we will be producing a rare earth and rare metals at the beginning of 2016.
Now to produce those rare earth and rare metals we’ll have to be bringing in either red mud or fly ash or aluminous clays, add the feedstock for the extraction unit of the Cap-Chat facility.
This is a long answer. I apologize for that. But ultimately in 2016 the Cap-Chat plant at our HPA facility will not only be revenue generating and selling high purity alumina, it’s going to be an industrial scale demo of our technology platform and we’ll be able to bring in any of the feedstocks we’ve been speaking about, treat them, produce the rare earth and send the alumina on into the process and purified for high purity alumina. So it’s a stepwise process, but to answer to your question in short fashion rare earth, rare metal look to be announcing end of this year, beginning of next year timelines and cost and we expect to be producing them in early 2016.
Thank you. And I have one more question, but I’ll jump back in the queue unless I’m the last one.
Glenn R. Kelly
I think Peter (indiscernible) had another question. Peter , are you able to get back into the queue?
(Operator Instructions) There are no further questions at this time. I would now like to turn the call back over to Mr. Glenn Kelly.
Glenn R. Kelly
Well, thanks, everyone. That concludes our quarterly conference call and we look forward to reporting back to you at the end of our Q3 period. And in the mean time updating you on the progress as the equipment arrives and as construction gets underway. We’ll be updating you after the progress of our HPA facility. And once again thank you for signing in today and being part of our quarterly conference call.
This concludes today’s conference call. You may now disconnect.
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