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GPRE > SEC Filings for GPRE > Form 10-Q on 1-Nov-2012All Recent SEC Filings




Quarterly Report

Item 2. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.


The following discussion and analysis provides information which management believes is relevant to an assessment and understanding of our consolidated financial condition and results of operations. This discussion should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements included herewith and notes to the consolidated financial statements thereto and our annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2011 including the consolidated financial statements, accompanying notes and the risk factors contained therein.

Cautionary Information Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This report contains forward-looking statements based on current expectations that involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements generally do not relate strictly to historical or current facts, but rather to plans and objectives for future operations based upon management's reasonable estimates of future results or trends, and include statements preceded by, followed by, or that include words such as "anticipates," "believes," "continue," "estimates," "expects," "intends," "outlook," "plans," "predicts," "may," "could," "should," "will," and words and phrases of similar impact, and include, but are not limited to, statements regarding future operating or financial performance, business strategy, business environment, key trends, and benefits of actual or planned acquisitions. In addition, any statements that refer to expectations, projections or other characterizations of future events or circumstances, including any underlying assumptions, are forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements are made pursuant to safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although we believe that our expectations regarding future events are based on reasonable assumptions, any or all forward-looking statements in this report may turn out to be incorrect. They may be based on inaccurate assumptions or may not account for known or unknown risks and uncertainties. Consequently, no forward-looking statement is guaranteed, and actual future results may vary materially from the results expressed or implied in our forward-looking statements. The cautionary statements in this report expressly qualify all of our forward-looking statements. In addition, we are not obligated, and do not intend, to update any of our forward-looking statements at any time unless an update is required by applicable securities laws. Factors that could cause actual results to differ from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, those discussed in Part I, Item 1A - Risk Factors of our annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2011 and in Item 1A of Part II of this Quarterly Report for the quarter ended September 30, 2012. Specifically, we may experience significant fluctuations in future operating results due to a number of economic conditions, including, but not limited to, completion of the sale of 12 grain elevators and related agronomy and retail petroleum operations, competition in the ethanol and other industries in which we compete, commodity market risks, financial market risks, counter-party risks, risks associated with changes to federal policy or regulation, expected corn oil recovery rates and operating expenses, risks related to closing and achieving anticipated results from acquisitions, and other risk factors detailed in our reports filed with the SEC. Actual results may differ from projected results due, but not limited, to unforeseen developments.

In light of these assumptions, risks and uncertainties, the results and events discussed in the forward-looking statements contained in this report or in any document incorporated by reference might not occur. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this report or the date of the document incorporated by reference in this report. We are not under any obligation, and we expressly disclaim any obligation, to update or alter any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.


We are a leading, vertically-integrated producer, marketer and distributer of ethanol. We focus on generating stable operating margins through our diversified business segments and our risk management strategy. We believe that owning and operating assets throughout the ethanol value chain enables us to mitigate changes in commodity prices and differentiates us from companies focused only on ethanol production. Today, we have operations throughout the ethanol value chain, beginning upstream with our agronomy and grain handling operations, continuing through our ethanol, distillers grains and corn oil production operations and ending downstream with our ethanol marketing, distribution and blending facilities.

Management reviews our operations in the following four separate operating segments:

· Ethanol Production. We are North America's fourth largest ethanol producer. We operate a total of nine ethanol plants in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Tennessee, with approximately 740 million gallons per year, or mmgy, of total ethanol production capacity. At capacity, these plants collectively will consume approximately 265 million bushels of corn and produce approximately 2.1 million tons of distillers grains annually.

· Corn Oil Production. We operate corn oil extraction systems at all nine of our ethanol plants, with the capacity to produce approximately 145 million pounds annually. The corn oil systems are designed to extract non-edible corn oil from the whole stillage process immediately prior to production of distillers grains. Industrial uses for corn oil include feedstock for biodiesel, livestock feed additives, rubber substitutes, rust preventatives, inks, textiles, soaps and insecticides.

· Agribusiness. We operate three lines of business within our agribusiness segment: bulk grain, agronomy and petroleum. In our bulk grain business, we have 15 grain elevators with approximately 39.1 million bushels of total storage capacity. We sell fertilizer and other agricultural inputs and provide application services to area producers, through our agronomy business. Additionally, we sell petroleum products including diesel, soydiesel, blended gasoline and propane, primarily to agricultural producers and consumers. We believe our bulk grain business provides synergies with our ethanol production segment as it supplies a portion of the feedstock for our ethanol plants.

· Marketing and Distribution. Our in-house marketing business is responsible for the sales, marketing and distribution of all ethanol, distillers grains and corn oil produced at our nine ethanol plants. We also market and provide logistical services for ethanol and other commodities for third-party producers. Additionally, our wholly-owned subsidiary, BlendStar LLC, operates nine blending or terminaling facilities with approximately 625 mmgy of total throughput capacity in seven states in the south central United States. Construction of a BlendStar unit train terminal in Birmingham, Alabama, with additional throughput capacity of 300 mmgy, is expected to be completed and operational in the fourth quarter of 2012.

We intend to continue to take a disciplined approach in evaluating new opportunities related to potential acquisition of additional ethanol plants by considering whether the plants fit within the design, engineering and geographic criteria we have developed. In our marketing and distribution segment, our strategy is to renew existing marketing contracts, as well as enter new contracts with other ethanol producers. We also intend to pursue opportunities to develop or acquire additional grain elevators, specifically those located near our ethanol plants, subject to contractual restrictions following the proposed sale of certain of our agribusiness assets. We believe that owning additional agribusiness operations in close proximity to our ethanol plants enables us to strengthen relationships with local corn producers, allowing us to source corn more effectively and at a lower average cost. We also plan to continue to grow our downstream access to customers and are actively seeking new marketing opportunities with other ethanol producers. We also own 49% interest in BioProcess Algae LLC, which was formed to commercialize advanced photo-bioreactor technologies for growing and harvesting algal biomass. We continue our support of the BioProcess Algae joint venture.

To optimize the value of our assets, we began utilizing a portion of our railcar fleet to transport crude oil for third parties and to lease railcars to other users. At the end of the third quarter of 2012, we had 556 railcars leased to other users.

Recent Developments

On October 26, 2012, we entered into an asset purchase agreement to sell 12 grain elevators located in northwestern Iowa and western Tennessee. The transaction involves approximately 32.6 million bushels, or 83%, of our reported agribusiness grain storage capacity and all of our agronomy and retail petroleum operations. The estimated sales price for the facilities and certain related working capital is $133.1 million, including the assumption at closing of term debt of approximately $28.3 million. In addition, we expect to realize net proceeds from the liquidation of retained working capital of approximately $86.7 million before the repayment of approximately $85.2 million under a revolving credit facility and inventory financing arrangements. Working capital and amounts outstanding under debt and inventory financing arrangements are based on September 30, 2012 balances and will be adjusted to final amounts at closing. Net cash proceeds, including working capital liquidation, are expected to be approximately $103.8 million. We expect to report a pre-tax gain from this sale of approximately $46.0 million.

Industry Factors Affecting our Results of Operations

Variability of Commodity Prices. Our operations and our industry are highly dependent on commodity prices, especially prices for corn, ethanol, distillers grains and natural gas. Because the market prices of these commodities are not always correlated, at times ethanol production may be unprofitable. As commodity price volatility poses a significant threat to our margin structure, we have developed a risk management strategy focused on locking in favorable operating margins when available. We continually monitor market prices of corn, natural gas and other input costs relative to the prices for ethanol and distillers grains at each of our production facilities. We create offsetting positions by using a combination of derivative instruments, fixed-price purchases and sales contracts, or a combination of strategies within strict limits. Our primary focus is

not to manage general price movements of individual commodities, for example to minimize the cost of corn consumed, but rather to lock in favorable profit margins whenever possible. By using a variety of risk management tools and hedging strategies, including our internally-developed real-time margin management system, we believe we are able to maintain a disciplined approach to price risks.

A combination of factors resulted in compressed ethanol margins in 2012. The ethanol industry increased production in the fourth quarter of 2011 to meet demand from ethanol blenders in order to take advantage of the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit prior to its expiration on December 31, 2011. As a result, ethanol stocks at the end of 2011 exceeded normal market levels which have caused ethanol margins to compress to near break-even levels in the first half of 2012. Additionally, corn prices traded to all-time highs during the third quarter of 2012 due to drought conditions in the midwestern region of the U.S. According to the Energy Information Administration, or EIA, as an industry, ethanol producers have responded to the compressed margin environment by reducing production rates by approximately 18% by the end of the third quarter of 2012 compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. EIA data show ethanol imports increased from 51.5 million gallons in the first nine months of 2011 to 238.7 million gallons in the first nine months of 2012. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, Brazil was the top source of ethanol imports, accounting for approximately 91% of August 2012 shipments received in U.S. ports. Under the Renewable Fuels Standard II, or RFS II, certain parties are obligated to blend, in the aggregate, 2.0 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in 2012. During 2012, sugarcane ethanol imported from Brazil has been one of the most economical means for obligated parties to meet this standard. We believe the Brazilian government may increase the required percentage of ethanol in vehicle fuel sold in Brazil to 25 percent (from 20 percent) as sugarcane production rises, which would likely limit ethanol exports from Brazil into the U.S.

Further, during the third quarter of 2012, corn prices traded to all-time highs due to drought conditions in the midwestern region of the U.S. Estimates of supply and demand provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasted lower production levels and corresponding reduced demand levels as a result of higher corn prices. Consumers of corn, including ethanol producers, are competing for potentially reduced domestic supplies. These factors, in combination with reduced demand for motor fuels in the U.S. resulting from higher gasoline prices and more fuel-efficient vehicles, have adversely affected the margin environment in the first nine months of 2012. Also, during 2012, the Company experienced a decline in market capitalization as its stock price reached a 52-week low in the third quarter. As a result of these two adverse factors, we performed an interim review of goodwill for potential impairment as of September 30, 2012 for our ethanol production reporting units. As a result of this interim review, we determined that the estimated fair value of each of these reporting units substantially exceeded each of their respective carrying values and no goodwill impairment charge was deemed to be required. The margin environment in the fourth quarter of 2012, although improving, will likely be affected by these factors as well. We believe that U.S. ethanol production levels will continue to adjust to ethanol and corn supply and demand factors. Extended periods of depressed ethanol margins or market capitalization could lead to potential impairment of certain assets, including goodwill, in the future, which would adversely affect our operating results and certain leverage ratios for lending purposes.

There may be periods of time that, due to the variability of commodity prices and compressed margins, we reduce or cease ethanol production operations at certain of our ethanol plants. In the first nine months of 2012, we reduced production volumes at several of our ethanol plants by approximately 8% of our total production in direct response to unfavorable operating margins.

Reduced Availability of Capital. Some ethanol producers have faced financial distress over the past few years, culminating with bankruptcy filings by several companies. This, in combination with continued volatility in the capital markets, has resulted in reduced availability of capital for the ethanol industry in general. In this market environment, we may experience limited access to incremental financing.

Legislation. Federal and state governments have enacted numerous policies, incentives and subsidies to encourage the usage of domestically-produced alternative fuel solutions. Passed in 2007 as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act, RFS II has been, and we expect will continue to be, a driving factor in the growth of ethanol usage. The RFS Flexibility Act was introduced on October 5, 2011 in the U.S. House of Representatives to reduce or eliminate the volumes of renewable fuel use required by RFS II based upon corn stocks-to-use ratios. The Domestic Alternative Fuels Act of 2012 was introduced on January 18, 2012 in the U.S. House of Representatives to modify the RFS II to include ethanol and other fuels produced from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Due to drought conditions, the possibility of further legislation aimed at reducing or eliminating the renewable fuel use required by RFS II may also be heightened.

Under the provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act, the EPA has the authority to waive the mandated RFS II requirements in whole or in part. To grant the waiver, the EPA administrator must determine, in consultation with the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy, that one of two conditions has been met:
(1) there is inadequate domestic renewable

fuel supply or (2) implementation of the requirement would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, a region, or the U.S. In the third quarter of 2012, the governors of North Carolina and Arkansas as well as a number of livestock groups filed waiver requests with the EPA based on drought conditions. On August 20, 2012 the EPA asked for public comment on the need for an ethanol waiver. The agency has until November 13, 2012 to make a decision regarding the requested waiver. We believe it is unlikely the EPA will grant the requested waiver. However, our operations could be adversely impacted if a waiver is granted.

To further drive growth in the increased adoption of ethanol, Growth Energy, an ethanol industry trade association, and a number of ethanol producers requested a waiver from the EPA to increase the allowable amount of ethanol blended into gasoline from the current 10% level, or E10, to a 15% level, or E15. In October 2010, the EPA granted a partial waiver for E15 for use in model year 2007 and newer model passenger vehicles, including cars, SUVs, and light pickup truck. In January 2011, the EPA granted a second partial waiver for E15 for use in model year 2001 to 2006 passenger vehicles. On February 17, 2012, the EPA announced that evaluation of the health effects tests of E15 are complete and that fuel manufacturers are now able to register E15 with the EPA to sell. To meet one of the final requirements of the EPA prior to introducing E15 into the marketplace, in April 2012, a group of ethanol industry members funded a national fuel survey on E15. In June 2012, the EPA gave final approval for the sale and use of E15 ethanol blends in light duty vehicles made since 2001, representing nearly two-thirds of all vehicles on the road. The nation's first retail E15 ethanol blends were sold in July 2012. According to the EPA, as of September 28, 2012, 75 fuel manufacturers were registered to sell E15.

On July 21, 2010, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or the Reform Act, which, among other things, aims to improve transparency and accountability in derivative markets. While the Reform Act increases the regulatory authority of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, regarding over-the-counter derivatives, there is uncertainty on several issues related to market clearing, definitions of market participants, reporting, and capital requirements. While many details remain to be addressed in CFTC rulemaking proceedings, at this time we do not anticipate any material impact to our risk management strategy.

Industry Fundamentals. The ethanol industry is supported by a number of market fundamentals that drive its long-term outlook and extend beyond the short-term margin environment. Following the EPA's approval, the industry is working to broadly introduce E15 into the retail fuel market. The RFS II mandate increased to 13.2 billion gallons for 2012, 600 million gallons over the mandated volume in 2011, and continues to increase each year through 2015; however, the EPA has the authority to waive the mandate in whole or in part. The domestic gasoline market continues to evolve as refiners are producing more CBOB, a sub-grade (84 octane) gasoline, which requires ethanol or other octane sources to meet the minimum octane rating requirements for the U.S. gasoline market. In addition, ethanol export markets, although affected by competition from other ethanol exporters, mainly from Brazil, are expected to remain active in 2012. Overall, the industry is operating at the mandated levels and ethanol prices have continued to remain at a large discount to gasoline, providing blenders and refiners with a strong economic incentive to blend.

BioProcess Algae Joint Venture

The BioProcess Algae joint venture is focused on developing technology to grow and harvest algae, which consume carbon dioxide, in commercially viable quantities. Construction of Phase II next to our Shenandoah ethanol plant was completed and the Grower Harvesters™ bioreactors were successfully started up in January 2011. Phase II allowed for verification of growth rates, energy balances and operating expenses, which are considered to be some of the key steps to commercialization. In April 2012, we increased our ownership of BioProcess Algae to 49% pursuant to our purchase of ownership interests previously held by NTR plc.

In June 2012, BioProcess Algae and a subsidiary of Bioseutica BV, a leading producer of highly purified pharmaceutical-grade Omega-3 fatty acids, entered into a commercial supply agreement for the production of EPA-rich Omega-3 oils for use in nutritional or pharmaceutical applications. BioProcess Algae continues to explore additional potential algae markets including animal feeds, nutraceuticals and biofuels.

BioProcess Algae initiated Phase III and broke ground on a five-acre algae farm at the Shenandoah ethanol plant in the first quarter of 2012. Construction is complete on approximately three acres of the algae farm and the facilities were inoculated with algae in October 2012. If we and the other BioProcess Algae members determine that the venture can achieve the desired economic performance from Phase III, a larger build-out, possibly as large as 200 to 400 acres, of Grower Harvester reactors at the Shenandoah ethanol plant will be considered. Such a build-out may be completed in stages and could take up to two years to complete. Funding for BioProcess Algae for such a project would come from a variety of sources including current partners, new equity investors, debt financing or a combination thereof.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

This disclosure is based upon our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. The preparation of these financial statements requires that we make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses, and related disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities. We base our estimates on historical experience and other assumptions that we believe are proper and reasonable under the circumstances. We continually evaluate the appropriateness of estimates and assumptions used in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements. Actual results could differ materially from those estimates. Key accounting policies, including but not limited to those relating to revenue recognition, property and equipment, impairment of long-lived assets and goodwill, derivative financial instruments, and accounting for income taxes, are impacted significantly by judgments, assumptions and estimates used in the preparation of the consolidated financial statements. See further discussion of our critical accounting policies and estimates, as well as significant accounting policies, in our annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2011.

Recent Accounting Pronouncements

Effective January 1, 2012, we adopted the third phase of amended guidance in ASC Topic 820, Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures. The amended guidance clarifies the application of existing fair value measurement requirements and requires additional disclosure for Level 3 measurements regarding the sensitivity of fair value to changes in unobservable inputs and any interrelationships between those inputs. We currently are not impacted by the additional disclosure requirements as we do not have any recurring Level 3 measurements.

Effective January 1, 2012, we adopted the amended guidance in ASC Topic 220, Comprehensive Income. The amended guidance is aimed at increasing the prominence of other comprehensive income in the financial statements by eliminating the option to present other comprehensive income in the statement of stockholders' equity. We elected to present net income and other comprehensive income in two separate but consecutive statements. The updated presentation, which has been implemented retroactively for all comparable periods presented, did not impact our financial position or results of operations.

Effective January 1, 2012, we adopted the amended guidance in ASC Topic 350, Intangibles - Goodwill and Other. The amended guidance permits an entity to first assess qualitative factors to determine whether it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount as a basis for determining whether it is necessary to perform the two-step goodwill impairment test. The amended guidance did not impact our disclosure or reporting requirements.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

We do not have any off-balance sheet arrangements that have or are reasonably likely to have a current or future material effect on our consolidated financial condition, results of operations or liquidity.

Components of Revenues and Expenses

Revenues. In our ethanol production segment, our revenues are derived primarily from the sale of ethanol and distillers grains, which is a co-product of the ethanol production process. In our corn oil production segment, our revenues are derived from the sale of corn oil, which is extracted from the whole stillage immediately prior to the production of distillers grains. In our agribusiness segment, the sale of grain, fertilizer and petroleum products are our primary sources of revenue. In our marketing and distribution segment, the sale of ethanol, distillers grains and corn oil that we market for our nine ethanol plants, the sale of ethanol we market for third-party ethanol plants and the sale of other commodities purchased in the open market represent our primary sources of revenue. Revenues also include net gains or losses from derivatives.

Cost of Goods Sold. Cost of goods sold in our ethanol production and corn oil production segments includes costs for direct labor, materials and certain plant overhead costs. Direct labor includes all compensation and related benefits of non-management personnel involved in the operation of our ethanol plants. Plant overhead costs primarily consist of plant utilities, plant depreciation and outbound freight charges. Our cost of goods sold is mainly affected by the cost of ethanol, corn, natural gas and transportation. In these segments, corn is our most significant raw material cost. We purchase natural gas to power steam generation in our ethanol production process and to dry our distillers grains. Natural gas represents our second largest cost in this business segment. Cost of goods sold also includes net gains or losses from derivatives.

Grain, fertilizer and petroleum acquisition costs represent the primary components of cost of goods sold in our agribusiness segment. Grain inventories, forward purchase contracts and forward sale contracts are valued at market prices, where available, or other market quotes adjusted for differences, primarily transportation, between the exchange-traded

market and the local markets on which the terms of the contracts are based. Changes in the market value of grain inventories, forward purchase and sale . . .

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