VANCOUVER, BC – BQE Water Inc. (TSX-V: BQE), a leader in the management of mine wastewaters and metallurgical bleed streams, is pleased to release its audited consolidated financial results for the year ended December 31, 2019. The audited results do not contain any material differences when compared to the unaudited results reported previously on April 23, 2020.
2019 FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS
- Adjusted EBITDA increase of 46%, from $1.2 million in 2018 to $1.7 million in 2019;
- Setting annual record highs in both Proportional Revenues and in revenues under GAAP, with Proportional Revenues of $11.2 million ($9.8 million in 2018) and revenues under GAAP of $5.6 million ($4.3 million in 2018);
- Working capital increase of 42% year-over-year, from $1.3 million to $1.8 million as of December 31, 2019;
- Net increase in cash of $635,000 over the 12-month period, from $1.4 million to $2.1 million at the end of 2019; and
- Consecutive reporting of annual net earnings in the Company’s history with net income of $242,000, growing from $150,000 in 2018.
2019 OPERATIONAL SERVICES HIGHLIGHTS
Our operational services consist of the operation of water treatment plants, which generate recurring revenues for the Company from two main sources: sales of recovered metals and water treatment fees.
Revenues from Sales of Recovered Metals
The Company operates four water treatment plants that generate revenues from the sale of recovered metals, three plants operating under the JCC-BQE Joint Venture (“JCC-BQE”) and one plant operating under the MWT-BQE Joint Venture (“MWT-BQE”).
JCC-BQE Joint Venture
Our 50/50 joint venture with partner Jiangxi Copper Company (“JCC”) operates water treatment plants at Dexing Mine and at Yinshan Mine in Jiangxi province of China. The volume of water treated and pounds of copper recovered by the plants fluctuate seasonally depending on precipitation levels in the region. The operating results for the 12 months ended December 31, 2019 are as follows:
|Water treated (cubic metres)||22,052||19,814|
|Copper recovered (pounds)||3,449||3,367|
During 2019, all three plants met mechanical availability and process performance set by the Company. The volume of water treated increased by approximately 11% and the mass of copper recovered increased by 2% year-over-year. Changes in water volume and feed grade are largely the result of environmental conditions which are beyond the control of the joint venture. The minimal variances between 2018 and 2019 indicate very stable operations.
MWT-BQE Joint Venture
Our 20% share of MWT-BQE is with our 80% partner Beijing MWT Water Treatment Project Limited Company (“MWT”) and together we operate a water treatment plant at a smelter in Shandong province. MWT-BQE generates the majority of its revenues from the sale of zinc recovered from smelter wastewater, along with small traces of copper found in the stream. The operating results for the 12 months ended December 31, 2019 are as follows:
|Zinc recovered (pounds)||1,023||525|
|Copper recovered (pounds)||142||34|
The increase in the mass of zinc and copper recovered is due to the plant operating for most of 2019 compared to just one quarter in 2018. The water treatment plant’s capacity never reached its design target due to changes in the smelter feed composition and production schedule which deviated significantly from historic averages. These changes are believed to be temporary and the smelter is expected to notify MWT-BQE of future production plans in the first half of 2020.
As of December 31, 2019, there was unsold inventory of approximately 391,000 pounds of zinc, compared to 431,000 pounds of zinc at the end of 2018. The unsold inventory at December 31, 2019 is expected to be sold in the first half of 2020.
Revenues from Water Treatment Fees
The Company is contracted to operate and provide technical support for water treatment plants that generate recurring revenues in the form of water treatment and operations support fees. Compared to 2018, the number of water treatment plants generating recurring revenues from water treatment fees has increased by one to a total of five water treatment plants. They include four plants operated by BQE Water for Glencore at Raglan Mine and one plant operated by the MWT-BQE joint venture but supported and supervised by BQE Water in China. Operating fees from the Glencore operations are primarily based on the volume of water treated and discharged in accordance with strict regulatory requirements. The MWT-BQE plant generates fixed operations support fees for the achievement of operational targets that rely on the Company’s technical expertise.
The volume of water treated for the 12 months ended December 31, 2019 are as follows:
|(in ’000s of cubic metres)||2019||2018|
|3 Glencore WTPs operated historically||1,260||1,221|
|1 new Glencore WTP added in 2019||722||–|
|1 MWT-BQE joint venture WTP||588||283|
In 2019, we completed our 16th operating season at Raglan Mine and all Glencore plants met mechanical availability and process performance targets set for the year jointly by Glencore and the Company. The MWT-BQE plant operation was negatively impacted by lower volumes of water available to treat due to production changes in the smelter facility.
2019 TECHNICAL SERVICES HIGHLIGHTS
BQE Water’s technical expertise and IP are applicable globally across broad areas of water management. The highlights of technical services provided to clients and technical innovation projects during 2019 are summarized below.
Commercial Deployment of Selen-IX™ Technology
- Assistance with the procurement, fabrication and installation of Selen-IX™ plant equipment at the Kemess Mine in Northern BC.
- Preparation of the operating manuals and commissioning plan.
- Completion of plant pre-commissioning.
Cyanide Management/Recovery for Precious Metals Extraction Projects using SART
- Engineering design for the construction of two new SART plants that will be integrated into the respective gold metallurgical processing facilities for Shandong Zhongkuang Group and Zhaojin Group in China.
- Engineering design and procurement assistance for a new SART plant at the Parral operation in Mexico.
- Review of metallurgical test work and SART integration into a heap leach project to support the feasibility study and permitting for a new mine in Mexico.
- Engineering design for the feasibility study assessment of tailings re-processing using carbon-in-pulp at an existing mine in Mexico.
- Engineering design and cost estimate for a SART plant to be integrated into a heap leach operation at an existing gold mine in South America.
Water Consulting Services – Management, Treatability, Permitting Assistance, Toxicity Mitigation
- Treatability assessment for selenium to support a new mine development in the US.
- Treatability study for waste brine at a base metal refinery in Eastern Canada.
- Pilot demonstration for the simultaneous removal of sulphate and selenium to support the permitting of a mine expansion in Canada.
- Peer review of a proposed mine water treatment solution for the permitting of a new gold mine in Eastern Canada.
- Engineering design of a temporary water treatment system to manage toxicity from cyanide destruction residue at a gold mine in Québec.
- Assessment of water quality control and general water management improvements, waste residue minimization, scaling mitigation, flotation improvements and copper recovery from waste, at a large copper mine in Chile.
- Technical review of water treatment for First Nations engaged in the permitting and re-start of an existing mine in BC.
Optimization of Existing Water Treatment Plant
- Assessment of options to upgrade and expand the Spoon water treatment facility at Raglan Mine in response to mine expansion plans.
- Maximizing plant capacity and improving the reliability of water treatment at a base metal mine in BC including the temporary take-over of plant operations.
Engineering Design & Supply of Modular Treatment Systems
- Engineering design of a containerized modular water treatment plant for the Hope Bay project in Western Nunavut.
2019 COMMENTARY AND OUTLOOK FOR 2020
Overall, 2019 was another very successful year for the Company. The highlights can be summarized as follows:
- Achieved the best financial performance in Company history with net income of $240,000 and Adjusted EBITDA of $1.7 million, representing year-over-year increases of 60% and 40% respectively;
- Maintained excellent safety and environmental records throughout the Company’s operations with no accidents and environmental incidents despite significant increases in the scope and volume of services delivered in the field;
- Reached a major milestone in the commercialization of Selen-IX™ by completing the pre-commissioning of the first industrial scale plant, which is now ready to be commissioned in 2020;
- Strengthened our leadership position in selenium treatment as the Company was sought out for its expertise by major players in the power generation sector in the US;
- Contracted to provide technical services for three new SART projects globally, reflecting the recognition of BQE Water as the leader in the cyanide recovery and recycle technology;
- Secured a significant backlog of project work by the end of the fiscal year, providing better visibility for cash flows during the first half of 2020; and
- Improved the Company’s working capital year-over-year, increasing the Company’s ability to manage cash through 2020.
The volume of project work throughout 2019 was higher and the workflow was steadier compared to the year prior. This was reflected directly by better financial performance recorded in each of the four quarters in 2019 compared to 2018. The improvement can be attributed to the growth in the Company’s project pipeline over the years, which can be partially credited to enhancements in business development and marketing.
The financial results in 2019 extend the steady positive trend of improving Company financial performance for the past five years. While this long-term trend is very positive, the uncertainty about the impact of COVID-19 on the resource industry will make it difficult to project this positive momentum into the future with any high degree of certainty. However, water treatment has been declared an essential service at mine sites where we operate and most of our active projects are driven by regulatory needs that are unlikely to change. While the Company is not immune to disruptions in global economic activity caused by COVID-19, management expects the impacts to be mitigated by our commercial business model, the nature of our business, and the new contracts recently signed. Specifically, subject to the successful completion of commissioning the first Selen-IX™ plant, we expect annual recurring revenues from water treatment fees to increase meaningfully in 2020 and to further increase in 2021 when the SART and Selen-IX™ plants being built in 2020 become operational in China and in the US.
Despite recent financial improvements, the Company’s working capital of $1.8 million as of December 31, 2019 is approximately 68% of annual business expenses, which are comprised of general & administration and sale & development costs. Although the Company has achieved positive Adjusted EBITDA since 2017, shareholders should realize that short-term fluctuations in our revenues combined with the timing of the dividend payout from China represents a risk of a temporary shortfall in working capital. Management continues to actively explore options to mitigate this risk.
In summary, the Company expects to achieve the following in 2020:
- Complete the commissioning of the first commercial Selen-IX™ plant and initiate our five-year operating term at Kemess Mine in BC;
- Complete our 17th operating season at Raglan Mine;
- Complete the construction and commissioning of two new SART plants in China;
- Complete the engineering design and supply of equipment for the first Company project outside of the mining sector, involving a commercial scale selenium removal plant; and
- Secure a grant from the Canadian government to accelerate the technical development of a new arsenic stabilization process, expanding the capabilities of our existing ChemSulphide® and BioSulphide® processes.
SELECTED FINANCIAL INFORMATION
For a complete set of Financial Statements and Management Discussion and Analysis, please go to www.bqewater.com.
|(in $’000 except for per share amounts)||2019||2018|
|General and administration expenses||1,631||1,509|
|Sales and development expenses||1,063||1,120|
|Share-based payment expenses||153||111|
|Share of income from equity accounted joint ventures||(849)||(898)|
|Income from operations and joint ventures||722||380|
|Other income (expense), net||14||(105)|
|Bad debt expense||(383)||–|
|Income tax expense||(111)||(125)|
|Net income for the year||242||150|
|Other comprehensive (loss) income|
|Translation (loss) gain on foreign operations||(284)||102|
Comprehensive (loss) income for the year
|Earnings per share (basic and diluted)||0.20||0.16|
|at Dec 31||at Dec 31|
|Total non-current liabilities||331||–|
1See “Non-GAAP Measures” in the Management Discussion and Analysis
About BQE Water
BQE Water is a service provider specializing in water treatment and management for metals mining, smelting and refining. We are helping to transform the way the industry thinks about water in the context of natural resource projects by offering services and expertise which enables more sustainable water management practices and improved overall project performance at reduced risks. BQE Water invests in innovation and has developed unique intellectual property through the commercialization of several new technologies at mine sites around the world for organizations including Glencore, Jiangxi Copper, Freeport-McMoRan and the US EPA. BQE Water is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada and trades on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol BQE. Visit www.bqewater.com for more information.
The Toronto Venture Exchange has not reviewed and does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or the accuracy of this release.
CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
Certain information contained herein may not be based on historical fact and therefore constitutes “forward-looking information” under applicable Canadian securities legislation. This includes without limitation statements containing the words “plan”, “expect”, “project”, “estimate”, “intend”, “believe”, “anticipate”, “may”, “will” and other similar words or expressions. Forward-looking statements are based on the opinions and estimates of management at the date the statements are made, and are subject to a variety of risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual events or results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to, the Company’s dependence on key personnel and contracts, uncertainty with respect to the profitability of the Company’s technologies, competition, technology risk, the Company’s ability to protect its intellectual property and proprietary information, fluctuations in commodity prices, currency risk, environmental regulation and the Company’s ability to manage growth and other factors described in the Company’s filings with the Canadian securities regulators at www.sedar.com (including without limitation the factors described in the section entitled “Risks and Uncertainties” in the Company’s MD&A for the year ended December 31, 2019). Given these risks and uncertainties, the reader is cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. All forward-looking information contained herein is based on management’s current expectations and the Company undertakes no obligation to revise or update such forward-looking information to reflect subsequent events or circumstances, except as required by law.