VANCOUVER, BC – BQE Water Inc. (TSX-V: BQE), a leader in the treatment and management of mine impacted waters, is pleased to release its audited consolidated financial results for the year ended December 31, 2022.
“We are pleased with our annual results which reflect the stage of the Company’s growth in the post pandemic world and the reversion to mean of our share of income from the China JV,” said David Kratochvil, President & CEO of BQE Water. “We added three new operations in North America which increased our recurring revenues from clean water production by $1.9 million in the year. At the same time, we increased revenue from technical services by 60% year-over-year which allowed us to achieve historic highs in both GAAP and Proportional Revenues, giving good vision on future growth potential.”
- Achieved record Proportional Revenues of $18.9 million in 2022, a 21% increase from 2021.
- Recorded historic high revenues under GAAP of $12.2 million in 2022, a 62% increase compared to 2021.
- Share of income from joint ventures was $1.5 million, $1.3 million lower than in 2021.
- Net income for the year was $1.2 million compared to $2.6 million in 2021.
- Adjusted EBITDA was $3.1 million compared to $4.1 million the year prior.
- Increased working capital by 57% year-over-year to $7.2 million as of December 31, 2022.
- Grew net cash by 58% to $6.2 million and Proportional Cash by 18% to $9.6 million at the end of 2022.
Selected financial results for the last 5 years are as follows:
Selected financial results for the 3 and 12 months ended December 31, 2022 are as follows:
|(in ’000s)||3 mos ended Dec. 31||12 mos ended Dec. 31|
|Revenues under GAAP||3,465||2,570||12,158||7,511|
|Net income (loss)||(244)||800||1,162||2,629|
OPERATIONAL SERVICES HIGHLIGHTS
Our operational services consist of the operation or technical supervision of water treatment plants, which generate recurring revenues from three main sources: sales of recovered metals, water treatment fees and operations support fees. The Company’s active operations for the 12 months ended December 31, 2022 and 2021 are as follows:
|JCC-BQE Joint Venture||Jiangxi province, China||Sales of recovered metals|
|MWT-BQE Joint Venture||Shandong province, China||Sales of recovered metals|
|Raglan Mine for Glencore||Northern Québec, Canada||Water treatment fees|
|Minto Mine for Minto Metals||Yukon, Canada||Water treatment fees|
|Zhongkuang Metallurgical Facilities for MWT||Shandong province, China||Operations support fees|
|Zhaojin Metallurgical Facilities for MWT||Shandong province, China||Operations support fees|
|Power utility ash pond for WesTech||Eastern USA||Water treatment fees|
|Base metal project for a metal producer||Southwestern USA||Water treatment fees|
JCC-BQE Joint Venture Operations
Our 50/50 joint venture with partner Jiangxi Copper Company (“JCC”) operates three 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, 2022 are as follows:
|Water treated (cubic metres)||17,704||21,552|
|Copper recovered (pounds)||2,829||3,337|
During 2022, all three plants met mechanical availability and process performance set by the Company. Both the volume of water treated and the mass of copper recovered decreased year-over-year, by 18% and 15% respectively. The region experienced an unusually low volume of precipitation in the last half of 2022, with approximately 34% of the total rainfall compared to the same period the year prior. Lower rainfall not only lessened the water flowing into the treatment plants but also affected copper leaching from waste rock, reducing copper concentrations in the plant feed. Changes in water volume and feed grade are largely the result of environmental conditions beyond the control of the joint venture.
MWT-BQE Joint Venture Operations
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 of China. MWT-BQE generates revenues from the sale of zinc and copper recovered from smelter wastewater. The operating results for the 12 months ended December 31, 2022 are as follows:
|(in ’000s pounds)||2022||2021|
The mass of zinc recovered decreased by 38% while copper recovery decreased by 8%. The smelter periodically operated their production lines with ores from different sources which led to varying concentrations of zinc and copper in the feed composition and a fluctuation in the volume of wastewater treated by the plant. The joint venture has no control in the composition and volume of the feed that flows into the plant.
BQE Water Operations
The Company, with our Inuit partner Nuvumiut Development, operates four water treatment plants at Raglan Mine for Glencore Canada Corporation.In May 2022, we mobilized our operations team to site to commence our 19th operating season at the mine. Due to a drier season, the total volume of water treated across all four plants at Raglan Mine in 2022 decreased by 20% compared to 2021.
In August 2022, we entered into a new operational services agreement with Minto Metals to operate a water treatment plant at Minto Mine. The mine is expected to treat approximately 750,000 to 1.5 million cubic metres of water per year. Our team mobilized to site on August 27, 2022 and began treating and discharging clean water without interruption.
In 2021, we began operations of the Zhongkuang SART plant and the Zhaojin SART plant at metallurgical facilities in China. Both plants have been under our technical supervision since the start of full production. During 2022, as government restrictions relating to the pandemic were lifted, both SART plants resumed operations as the upstream circuit returned to normal operation.
At the end of 2021, we completed the commissioning of our first project in the power generation industry, a treatment plant utilizing our Selen-IX™ process to remove selenium from ash pond water for WesTech Engineering. We also began providing ongoing plant operational services in exchange for water treatment fees with fixed and variable components. In 2022, our team was onsite providing water treatment services with the Selen-IX™ circuit to manage the presence of selenium in the feed.
In April 2022, we completed the commissioning of a treatment plant utilizing a combination of nanofiltration and our proprietary selenium electro-reduction process for the simultaneous removal of selenium and sulphate from mine water for a base metal project in the American Southwest. Upon completion of commissioning, we began providing ongoing plant operations services in exchange for water treatment fees comprised of a fixed guaranteed minimum and a variable fee linked to the volume of water treated. In 2022, due to a limited supply of feed water into our treatment circuits, we received only the fixed guaranteed minimum fee for the months during which the plant was ready to operate.
The number of operating days contributing to water treatment or support fees for the 12 months ended December 31, 2022 are as follows:
|Raglan Mine water treatment plants||157||129|
|Minto Mine water treatment plant||127||–|
|Zhongkuang SART plant||349||126|
|Zhaojin SART plant||159||161|
|Water treatment plant for ash pond in Eastern USA||328||–|
|Water treatment plant in Southwest USA||248||–|
The volume of water treated for the 12 months ended December 31, 2022 are as follows:
|(in ’000s cubic metres)||2022||2021|
|Raglan Mine water treatment plants||1,870||2,327|
|Minto Mine water treatment plant||378||–|
|SART plants in China||411||336|
|Water treatment plants in the USA||18||–|
TECHNICAL SERVICES HIGHLIGHTS
BQE Water’s technical expertise and IP are applicable globally across broad areas of water management. Some highlights of technical services, services outside of ongoing plant operations, provided to clients and technical innovation projects during 2022 are summarized below.
Selenium Removal Projects
- Successfully completed the commissioning of a water treatment plant for simultaneous selenium and sulphate removal at a mine in the US.
- Continued to provide engineering services for the construction of a third Selen-IX™ plant at a US mine.
- Successfully completed lab testing and preliminary engineering for a selenium removal system to treat Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) scrubber blow-down at a US power utility provider.
- Successfully completed lab testing and preliminary engineering for a selenium removal system to support permitting of a new uranium project in Canada.
Water Consulting Projects (Water Management, Treatability, Permitting Assistance, Toxicity Mitigation)
- Continued to provide engineering design services for three water treatment plants to support permitting of the KSM project in BC.
- Completed water treatment consulting services resulting in the issue of a permit for the Blackwater project in BC.
- Completed a water treatment conceptual design study to support the permitting of a new lithium project in Ontario.
- Completed engineering design for a water treatment pilot plant to support permitting of a rare earth elements project in Chile.
- Completed pilot demonstrations of the company’s sulphate removal Sulf-IX™ technology and selective copper recovery BioSulphide® process at multiple sites across Codelco operations including the El Teniente and Andina mines in Chile.
- Completed process engineering design for the construction of a water treatment plant to recycle water at a mine in Mexico.
- Initiated engineering for an expansion project of the water treatment plant at Minto Mine in the Yukon.
Cyanide Management Projects (Cyanide Destruction, Recycle)
- Completed site testing to investigate possible improvements in cyanide destruction at a gold mine in Nevada.
- Completed technical assessment for a cyanide destruction plant at the Pogo Mine in Alaska to identify operating cost reductions through process optimization.
- Completed a study to optimize cyanide destruction and effluent discharge using reverse osmosis at a large gold heap leach operation in Peru.
- Initiated engineering design of a SART plant for Shandong Gold in China.
- Performed a trade-off study for the expansion of the existing SART plant in Mexico to include a zinc recovery circuit.
COMMENTARY AND OUTLOOK
When comparing our 2022 results against the previous year, it is important to first consider the exceptional net income from our China joint venture with JCC in 2021. Historically, our share of the annual net income from the joint venture has averaged $1.2 million. Buoyed by high copper prices and high amounts of copper in the wastewater, our share of this net income in 2021 was $2.8 million, more than double the long-term average. While our share of $1.5 million recorded in 2022 represents a return to the norm, its comparison to the outsized share from 2021 resulted in a year-over-year variance in some of our financial metrics.
In fact, 2022 was an exciting year for the Company, dominated by growth in both the team’s technical capabilities and overall capacity to execute a larger number of projects, ensure the successful operation of a growing portfolio of plants under long-term contracts, and support sales and development activities that included new products and services.
When asked what we consider as the main challenge for BQE Water, our answer over the last two years has been very consistent – managing growth; specifically as it relates to the expansion of our team to provide successful operational services for new plants in the pipeline. Our 2022 results reflect this challenge superimposed on the lower net income from our China joint venture. Some of the challenges are the same as those faced by other professional services firms growing organically in the post pandemic world; namely, tight labour markets and general cost increases largely driven by rising wages. Others are more unique to BQE Water such as the need to bring on new hires well ahead of projects entering the operations phase due to the IP-heavy onboarding that extends the training period and initially increases our costs as a percentage of revenues.
Another challenge exclusive to BQE Water that impacted our 2022 results was the lack of water to be treated at the new plants we commissioned in the last 18 months. While we protect ourselves from incurring losses should there be limited water, our fee structure is tilted towards earning profit from actual performance for the volume of water treated and discharged. We are currently engaged in discussions with our clients and partners to extend the operating contract terms to make up for the periods where water volumes are significantly below the anticipated design through no influence of our own.
Lastly, another challenge unique to us has been the increase in plant operations services and the associated shift in the balance of services from the laboratory and engineering office out into the field. This shift produced the need for adjustments in skillsets and internal restructuring to manage such a transition.
Despite some natural growing pains, the Company continued to demonstrate a positive long-term trajectory which is reflected in our 2022 financial results as follows:
- Added new recurring operational revenues of $2.0 million from projects outside of China, effectively doubling our operations business.
- Achieved record technical services revenues of $8.0 million, which is a leading indicator of future operations services.
- Reduced our reliance on metal sales in China for the recurring revenue portion of the total net income to de-risk our exposure to commodity price fluctuations and geopolitical uncertainties.
- Continued to increase the Company’s treasury by growing working capital to $7.2 million, which represents the highest year-end balance since the new commercial strategy and business model was implemented in 2014.
In terms of technical development, there were several milestone achievements in 2022:
- Successful commissioning of the first treatment plant that combines selenium and sulphate removal.
- Successful pilot demonstrations of our BioSulphide® process for selective copper recovery and Sulf-IX™ process for sulphate removal at three different sites for Codelco.
- Completion of half a dozen cyanide destruction projects which cemented the integration of newly acquired IP in this area into the Company’s IP portfolio.
The figure below shows the evolution of our staffing from 2017 to 2022, including our projections for 2023. The graph provides good insight into the changes that occurred during this period of growth and the challenges therein. Between 2017 and 2020, the turnaround in business performance was supported by resources and infrastructure already in place when the new business strategy was fully implemented in 2015. Since that time, the Company has experienced a strain on existing resources and has roughly doubled our team size.
In summary, while 2022 is the first year since 2017 where Adjusted EBITDA and net income did not increase year-over-year, the management team of BQE Water believes this is a direct and natural reflection of being in the growth stage of its evolutionary cycle.
Looking ahead, we have good visibility for projects in 2023. Our recurring revenue and gross margin from operational services are expected to continue to increase: there will be a full year of operation at Minto Mine, the newest Selen-IX™ plant is expected to start generating recurring revenue in Q4 of 2023, and the volume of water at our power utility ash pond project is anticipated to increase. In addition, we foresee our margins on technical services to improve as inflation-adjusted fees were applied in January 2023.
In the long-term, the drivers for continued company growth remains firmly in place including:
- Global decarbonization driving demand for metals production.
- Tightening government regulations and increased enforcement around water quality.
- Environmental responsibility and social acceptability guiding water management and treatment decisions.
- Increased role of Indigenous communities in clean water production and environmental monitoring.
- Outsourcing of innovation in the mine water space combined with our track record of bringing innovation to market.
- Clean-up and closure of ash ponds as one of the largest environmental liabilities faced by power utilities.
Despite these trends and our optimistic outlook for 2023, readers need to be cautioned about the risks that may create sudden and potentially significant headwinds for us and our business. First, geopolitical tensions between China and the West may complicate our ongoing China operations and any future business. Second, a global recession may lead to a drop in commodity prices and put new mine development projects on hold. For these reasons, we remain focused on fiscal prudence and maintaining our working capital at a level that would shield us from these exogenous impacts. Our financial results for 2022 and the current outlook for 2023 underpin our view that we are on track for profitable growth and have sufficient cash reserves to mitigate these risks.
SELECTED FINANCIAL INFORMATION
For a complete set of Financial Statements and MD&A, please go to www.bqewater.com.
|(in $’000 except for per share amounts)||2022||2021|
|Share of income from joint ventures||1,487||2,803|
|General and administration||(2,464)||(1,823)|
|Sales and development||(1,768)||(1,374)|
|Depreciation and amortization||(264)||(168)|
|Income from operations and joint ventures||1,371||2,697|
|Other income (expenses)||108||(33)|
|Bad debt (expense) recovery||(8)||95|
|Income tax expenses||(309)||(130)|
|Net income for the year||1,162||2,629|
|Earnings per share (basic)||0.93||2.13|
|Earnings per share (diluted)||0.92||2.11|
|at Dec 31||at Dec 31|
|Total non-current liabilities||555||778|
- Non-GAAP measures
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, 2022). 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.