VANCOUVER, BC – BQE Water Inc. (TSX-V: BQE), a leader in the treatment and management of mine impacted waters, is pleased to release its interim consolidated financial results for the three months ended March 31, 2021.
“Our financial results for the first quarter have always been influenced by difficult-to-time non-recurring project revenues and by climatic conditions on recurring revenues from our existing operations,” stated David Kratochvil, President & CEO of BQE Water. “While the financial results are not those of our record Q1 quarter of last year, our outlook is extremely positive. We anticipate the start-up of new water treatment plants that will provide year-round recurring revenues, projects delayed in Q1 to resume and our balance sheet to remain strong.”
- Adjusted EBITDA for the three-month period ended March 31, 2021 was ($231,000), compared to $91,000 for the same period last year.
- Proportional Revenue for Q1 2021 was $1.5 million, an $805,000 or 34% decrease compared to $2.4 million in Q1 2020.
- Net loss for the three-month period ended March 31, 2021 was $523,000 compared to a net loss of $18,000 for the same period in 2020.
- Working capital increased $810,000 or 36% from $2.3 million as at March 31, 2020 to $3.1 million as at March 31, 2021.
- Proportional Cash, which includes our share held in joint ventures, as of March 31, 2021 was $5.0 million compared to $2.9 million at March 31, 2020, an increase of $2.1 million or 70%.
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 from the JCC-BQE Joint Venture (“JCC-BQE”) and one plant from 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 Q1 2021 are as follows:
|(in ’000s)||3 months ended Mar. 31|
|Water treated (cubic metres)||2,424||2,709|
|Copper recovered (pounds)||204||257|
During Q1 2021, all three plants met or exceeded mechanical availability and process performance. However, the volume of water treated and the mass of copper recovered decreased by 11% and 20% respectively over the same period in 2020, a 13-year historic low. Dexing Mine experienced an unusually low volume of precipitation during Q4 2020 to Q1 2021, with approximately 40% of the total rainfall compared to the same period in the year prior. Lower rainfall not only limited the water flowing into the treatment plants but also affected copper leaching from waste rock, reducing the copper concentration 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 and will fluctuate from period to period.
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 of China. 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. Operating results for Q1 2021 are as follows:
|(in ’000s)||3 months ended Mar. 31|
|Zinc recovered (pounds)||270||183|
|Copper recovered (pounds)||76||28|
The mass of zinc recovered increased by 48% and the mass of copper recovered increased by 171% when compared to the same period in 2020. Beginning in Q3 2020, the smelter periodically operated their production lines with a slightly higher-grade ore, which led to a higher concentration of zinc and copper in the feed composition and also an increase 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.
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. They include four plants operated by BQE Water for Glencore at Raglan Mine in Northern Québec, a plant operated by the MWT-BQE joint venture but supported and supervised by BQE Water in China, and the newly added Zhongkuang SART plant in Shandong province of China. The new SART plant completed commissioning and began operations in Q1 2021.
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 and the Zhongkuang SART plant generates fixed operations support fees for the achievement of operational targets that rely on the Company’s technical expertise. During Q1, the plants at Raglan Mine are shut down as water stored in the outdoor reservoirs is frozen. Consequently, no revenue is generated in Q1 from the Raglan Mine plants. The volume of water treated by plants are as follows:
|(in ’000s cubic metres)||3 months ended Mar. 31|
|Glencore water treatment plants||–||–|
|MWT-BQE water treatment plant||167||153|
|Zhongkuang SART plant||48||–|
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 Q1 2021 are summarized below.
Commercial Deployment of Selen-IX™ and Direct Selenium Electro-Reduction (“ERC”) Technology
- Continued to provide engineering services for the first commercial scale direct selenium ERC plant at a mine in the US.
- Continued to support equipment procurement and fabrication for the first Selen-IX™ plant outside of mining currently under construction at a power utility ash pond in the US.
Cyanide Management and Recovery using SART and Electro-oxidation
- Successfully completed the commissioning of the SART plant for Zhaojin Mining Industry in China.
- Continued the design of a SART plant for a gold mine in Central America.
- Technical assessment of SART integration into an existing metallurgical plant using AVR for cyanide recovery.
- Lab scale demonstration and scoping level engineering assessment of cyanide recovery from thiocyanate
Water Consulting Services – Management, Treatability, Permitting Assistance, Toxicity Mitigation
- Due diligence on water management and treatment for a proposed new mine in South East Asia.
- Treatment process modification recommendations and laboratory scale validation of improvements for a mine water treatment plant in Peru.
- Assistance with water treatment for permitting of a new mine in BC.
- Water management and treatment for a prefeasibility study for a new gold mine in the US.
- Design of a water treatment plant integrated into a gold metallurgical plant to enable Zero Liquid Discharge operation in China.
- Expansion of an existing ammonia removal water treatment system for a gold mine in Ontario.
- Assessment of improvements to the water management and treatment strategy for the KSM project in BC.
- Water treatment design for a feasibility study and permitting of a new gold mine in Central America.
COMMENTARY AND OUTLOOK
Historically, the first quarter has always been our weakest in terms of financial performance, primarily due to the impact of climatic conditions on recurring revenues from existing operations. Specifically, operations at Raglan Mine are shut down over winter until spring and our joint venture operations in China also treat lower volumes of water – the carrier of the copper recovered during treatment – due to lower seasonal precipitation and annual maintenance schedules.
When comparing the financial results of Q1 2021 with Q1 2020, the primary reason for the decrease in Proportional Revenue was a reduction in non-recurring technical services revenue. Certain technical services projects that were expected to be advanced in Q1 2021 were postponed to later in the year or to early 2022. The delays and interruptions are mainly pandemic related, ranging from disruptions in supply chains to travel restrictions to business decision deferrals. From this perspective, the Company’s Q1 2021 results reflect our historic quarterly sensitivity to difficult-to-predict technical services revenue. The drop in Proportional Revenue resulted in a commensurate decline in adjusted EBITDA and net earnings. With working capital of $2.3 million and a Proportional Cash balance of $5.0 million at the end of the quarter, we significantly strengthened our financial and operational position year over year.
Looking into 2022 and beyond, as new water treatment plants currently under construction are brought online over the next 12 months and begin to drive growth in recurring revenues from their operations, we anticipate general quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in financial performance to begin to ease and to decrease the trends of weaker first quarters. Additionally, unlike our operations at Raglan Mine and our copper recovery joint venture in China, the new plants are projected to operate year-round under contracts where we will be compensated with a fixed monthly fee and a volume-based bonus. This will make our revenues less sensitive to seasonality, climatic conditions and metal price volatility, which has been a key long-term strategy of ours. One of our recently commissioned SART plants in China has begun to contribute new recurring revenue, with the second plant expected to start contributing in Q2 2021. Other plant design projects are currently in advanced stages of engineering and we anticipate equipment procurement and construction for these to begin in the second half of the year.
Our outlook for the remainder of 2021 and 2022 remains positive and we expect our working capital position to remain stable in 2021. Nevertheless, the Company believes it is prudent to caution our shareholders with respect to the uncertainties that could affect our outlook. As the effects of COVID-19 and its variants continue to unfold on the global economy, risks remain. Many of these risks are outside of management’s control, including geopolitical uncertainties that may affect our business in China, the industry’s continued cautious approach to spending, concerns about liquidity in the real economy that may affect our future sales, and the possibility of weak commodity prices that could lead to a slow-down in the global mining industry. Fortunately, BQE Water is to an extent hedged against these risks as most of our projects are driven by the need for clean water and compliance with evolving environmental regulations.
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)||
3 months ended Mar. 31
|General and administration expenses||401||433|
|Sales and development expenses||453||229|
|Share-based payment expenses||88||49|
|Share of (income) loss from joint ventures||(23)||127|
|Loss from operations and joint ventures||(483)||(133)|
|Other (expense) income, net||(40)||115|
|Net loss for the period||(523)||(18)|
|Net loss per share (basic)||(0.43)||(0.02)|
|Net loss per share (diluted)||(0.42)||(0.02)|
at Mar. 31,
at Dec. 31,
|Total non-current liabilities||781||821|
1. See 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, 2020). 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.