Pacific Ethanol reports fourth quarter, gross margins
Ian Gilson, CFA
Pacific Ethanol (
reported its fourth quarter and full year earnings on February 27,
2012. Due to lower volumes of gasoline sold in California, and an
excess inventory of ethanol statewide, the price of ethanol
declined significantly in December 2011. However, the cost of corn,
the major raw material, did not decline as farmers held back on
selling some of their inventory. Ethanol producers did not reduce
production rates and the combined effect of excess production and
declining demand had a very negative impact on ethanol prices.
Gross margins improved slightly from third quarter levels as the
company is implementing process changes to improve profitability.
This should have a positive impact in this, and future, years.
Refineries are currently blending ethanol into gasoline at below
the mandated level and are using their RIMs to maintain
profitability. In 2013 the E15 (gasoline with 15% ethanol) blend
should be introduced into the market and this should have a
positive impact on ethanol demand in the second half of 2012.
The excess ethanol inventory continues into the March quarter of
2012. We expect a decline in ethanol sales by Pacific Ethanol in
the first quarter and then increasing sales for the rest of the
year. If the excess ethanol inventory is consumed as E15 is
introduced and gasoline consumption increases on a seasonal basis
we would expect the company to restart the (currently idled) Madera
Pacific Ethanol will probably continue to increase its ownership
New PE Holdco LLC as a low cost way of adding to its owned ethanol
We have adjusted our estimates to reflect lower than anticipated
We continue to rate the stock as Outperform with a price target of
$3 a share
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