A whirlwind weekend of activity saw Plasco Energy Group change hands twice, ultimately ending up where it began – under the control of Rod Bryden.
And all for a dollar, and the chance for two creditors to get some of their money back.
“I think it makes it probable, but it certainly doesn’t assure (they’ll get full return),” Mr. Bryden said.
Mr. Bryden's company, RMB Advisory Services Inc., bought Plasco on Friday night. The deal includes all the company’s intellectual property, which cleared the way for Plasco's founder to return to the firm he left in 2014.
“Technology, designs, costing data, records of all those test runs,” he said. “It means that Plasco is going to need to go ahead and build a commercial plant because the test plant has already done what that test plant’s job was and that was to assist in developing the equipment and designs and then operating them to demonstrate that they work.”
Mr. Bryden said he began getting interested in the company again once it filed for creditor protection, but didn’t believe he could secure the capital to purchase it at that time.
A global settlement agreement negotiated in July came into effect Sept. 25 that put the beleaguered company into the hands of North Shore Power Group and Canadian Water Projects Inc., an international water treatment company. NSPG is the renewable energy developer wholly owned by the municipality of Blind River.
NSPG and CWP acquired Plasco for the value of the debt the company owed them. The deal also gave the co-owners the right to their share of proceeds from Plasco asset sales that occurred before their acquisition. All the company’s other obligations remain under creditor protection with a separate company unrelated to Plasco, Mr. Bryden said.
“They were able to buy Plasco out of CCAA simply for their debt, so what I then did was to acquire all the shares of Plasco,” he said.
The terms of the deal provide security over Plasco assets to support the repayment of the loans owed to NSPG and CWP.
“We are pleased to see Mr. Bryden’s return to the helm of Plasco, and have confidence in his ability to put Plasco back on track to becoming a dominant force in the waste-to-energy sector, which is an important part of NSPG’s cleantech business strategy,” NSPG chief executive Graeme Lowry said in a statement.
Mr. Bryden becomes Plasco’s chairman, CEO and sole director. He said he was honoured to be back at the helm and has already started putting an executive team in place.
Plasco’s former vice-president of engineering, Marc Baron, is now the executive vice-president of operations and engineering, Andreas Tsangaris has been appointed chief scientific officer, Tom Wagler is the new manager of process engineering and Qinglin Zhang and Liang Zou are senior engineers for the firm. Plasco’s former quality documentation specialist, Barbara Shipman, has been named the new office manager, while Robert McInnis, currently Mr. Bryden’s vice-president at SC Stormont Inc., will be Plasco’s chief financial officer.
As for the commercial plant, Mr. Bryden insists it is viable, saying the former management’s decision to dry waste before it went to the facility might have had the potential for greater return on investment but the facility wasn’t designed to handle drier waste.
“I think there was additional work that needed to be done on the conversion system to accommodate that and it seemed that that need for another new development was what may have discouraged the then-board from proceeding,” he said.
Mr. Bryden’s new team will have to study all the material they have before deciding how to proceed with a commercial plant, he said, adding that he doesn’t expect the City of Ottawa “to make special arrangements” to work with the company again.
While Mr. Bryden said many people in Ontario and Ottawa feel that “power prices are pretty high,” there are many other areas around the world where the prices are even higher, places where a denser population might make getting rid of garbage more of a challenge.
A location like that will be where Plasco builds first, he said, adding the plan is for the first plant “to lead to many more.”
That could lead the company back to Ottawa again one day, he said.
“If the city decided that it wanted to consider a waste-to-energy facility – it hasn’t announced it yet and probably will be a while before it does – then we may well be in a position where we’re ready to respond to that again. It would be wonderful to build something in Ottawa. It’s the hometown, it would be great.”
Mr. Bryden said he expects Plasco to start building a commercial plant somewhere by the middle of 2017.