State company Bord na Móna lost almost €50 million in the 12 months to the end of March, figures published on Wednesday will show.
The news comes following planners' refusal to allow the redevelopment of the ESB electricity plant at Shannonbridge, Co Offaly, in a move that could hit jobs at Bord na Móna, which supplies fuel to the power station.
Sales at Bord na Móna, established to exploit the Republic’s peat bogs, fell almost 4 per cent to €380.4 million from €395 million in its last financial year, which ended on March 31st.
Bord na Móna lost €49.9 million after spending €91.4 million on voluntary redundancies, investing in new businesses and other measures such as closing its coal supply operation.
The company is moving into new businesses, such as recycling and generating electricity, to replace the loss of peat harvesting and processing, which it has to wind down in coming years.
Management has dubbed this shift its “brown to green” strategy. The €91.4 million cost of this included a €42 million bill for voluntary redundancies and €10 million spent on developing new businesses.
Accounts included in its annual report show that Bord na Móna’s ongoing businesses earned operating profits of €41.3 million before calculating for the cost of restructuring. It also cut net debt by €53.2 million to €22.9 million, a reduction of 70 per cent.
During its last financial year, Bord na Móna cut peat harvesting by 50 per cent. It had rehabilitated 15,000 hectares of peatland by March 31st.
The company opened a new plastics recycling factory at its old peat briquette manufacturing plant in Littleton, Co Tipperary, creating 40 jobs.
It also launched Ireland’s first tyre recycling facility, which added another 40 new posts.
Bord na Móna completed work on Oweninny wind farm in Co Mayo, which is due to begin supplying electricity from late this year. It aims to generate 3,000 megawatt hours of electricity a year from this and other such plants by 2030.
It is working on another wind farm at Cloncreen, Co Offaly, and a facility in Co Laois that will convert waste to gas, which can then be burned to generate energy.
The company's chairman, Geoff Meagher, acknowledged that the last financial year had been a difficult one for the company.
However, he argued that the benefits of successfully transforming the company "will be shared not just by Bord na Móna and its employees but by communities across the midlands and the people of Ireland generally".
Chief executive Tom Donnellan maintained that Bord na Móna's underlying performance had been sound.
He said that the State company’s new investments focused on new businesses with the potential to create substantial new employment over the next 10 years.
“Crucially, we are carrying out this investment on a more secure financial platform as we report reductions in our cost base, a 24 per cent increase in our operating profit and a 70 per cent fall in our debt,” he added.
“This has been a challenging year for everyone in the company, as we lay the foundation for a new Bord na Móna.”
Mr Donnellan indicated that efforts to transform the company would continue during this financial year.