Pacific Ethanol, Aventine announce merger

By Pacific Ethanol | December 31, 2014

California-based Pacific Ethanol Inc. and Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings Inc., a Midwest-based producer of ethanol and related coproducts, announced they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Pacific Ethanol will acquire all of Aventine's outstanding shares in a stock-for-stock merger transaction.

"With this transaction, Pacific Ethanol strengthens its unique production and marketing advantages by diversifying into two additional discrete markets and connecting its Western markets with Aventine's Midwest and Eastern markets for low-carbon renewable fuels," said Neil Koehler, CEO of Pacific Ethanol. "The merger offers a rare opportunity to combine the experience, market presence and diversification that Aventine brings with our industry leadership in Western U.S. markets. It will complement our existing business as we balance assets across new regional markets, expand our footprint for the production and marketing of low-carbon renewable fuels, diversify our technology and increase our mix of coproducts."

"This transaction will more than double our annual ethanol production capacity, and it will establish Pacific Ethanol as the fifth largest producer and marketer of ethanol in the United States. Once closed, we expect the transaction to be immediately accretive to earnings with expected operational synergies and the expansion of our ethanol and coproduct marketing business. We are impressed with the both the quality of Aventine's assets and the seasoned employees operating the business, and we look forward to integrating our teams," concluded Koehler.

"In late 2012, the new Aventine management team defined a very aggressive turnaround strategy," stated Mark Beemer, CEO of Aventine. "Our mission has been accomplished with our plants achieving five new production records; over $30 million invested in the Pekin facilities, including coal-to-natural gas conversion; and additional capital investments in our Nebraska facilities. In 2014, Aventine achieved record earnings and successfully restarted its 155 million gallons of ethanol production in Nebraska. We look forward to making a successful transition of the business to Pacific Ethanol and bringing the combined strength of the two companies to the market."

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Pacific Ethanol expects to issue approximately 17.75 million shares of its common stock upon closing in exchange for all of the issued and outstanding shares of Aventine's common stock. Upon completion, existing Pacific Ethanol shareholders will own approximately 58 percent of the issued and outstanding shares of common stock of the combined entity, and Aventine will nominate two representatives to be named later to Pacific Ethanol's board of directors, increasing the total board count to nine.

Aventine will be operated as Pacific Ethanol's wholly-owned subsidiary. Aventine currently has $135 million in term loan debt.

Aventine's ethanol production assets include its 100 million gallon per year wet mill and 60 million gallon per year dry mill located in Pekin, Illinois, and its 110 million gallon per year and 45 million gallon per year dry mills in Aurora, Nebraska. Combined with Pacific Ethanol's current ethanol production capacity of 200 million gallons per year, the combined company will have a total ethanol production capacity of 515 million gallons per year, and together with Pacific Ethanol's marketing business will sell over 800 million gallons of ethanol annually.

The closing of the transaction, which is expected to occur during the second quarter of 2015, is subject to customary and other closing conditions and regulatory approvals, as well as the approval of Pacific Ethanol's and Aventine's shareholders.

For Pacific Ethanol, Troutman Sanders LLP served as legal advisors and Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC provided a fairness opinion to the Board of Directors of Pacific Ethanol. For Aventine, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP served as legal advisors and RPA Advisors LLC served as financial advisors.

Conference Call

The Company will host a conference call and live webcast on Wednesday, January 7th at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time to discuss the merger. To participate, interested parties should dial 1-877-847-6066 in the United States or 1-970-315-0267 from international locations, conference ID 60307901. A webcast of the conference call will be available on the investor page of the Pacific Ethanol website with an accompanying slide presentation that may be accessed on that page and through the webcast link.