Biffa looks to overseas markets and EfW

The Chief Executive of waste management company Biffa, Ian Wakelin (pictured right), has said that the company may start a ‘small international business’, perhaps in Central or South America, within the ‘next 12 to 24 months’.

Biffa looks to overseas markets and EfW

Speaking in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper, Wakelin suggested that he was keen to move into overseas markets, to realise the economic ‘opportunity’ of expansion, and help countries move up the waste hierarchy and recycle more.

He said: “We don’t do anything internationally at the moment, but I have a complete belief that we have the ability to take our expertise, technology and know-how into international markets.

“It would be in markets that are going through the same journey that Western Europe has been through in terms of environmental management and regulation.

“In certain countries around the world, they are still just taking waste, tipping it on a field and leaving it to rot. They are working their way through the evolutionary chain and we can help them do that.”

Wakelin added: “I absolutely believe that we will start a small international business over the course of the next 12 to 24 months. It needs to be in places that have started the journey but haven’t yet gone a long way, so central and southern America would be good starting point. We would see that as a potential opportunity for us.”

Biffa could become a public company

Looking at the future of the company in the UK, Wakelin suggested that the current hedge fund owners might not be long-term holders of the company, and that there was potential for taking it public.

He said: “It’s been a public company before [stocks were floated in 2006, when Biffa demerged from Severn Trent plc]. I think it would be well positioned in the public arena. There’s only one other publicly quoted company in the environmental services sector in the UK, which is Shanks Group.

“I do think that Biffa back in public hands would be an attractive investment, particularly with its growth potential. I think it would be a good place for the company to end up. For me, the most natural home for this business is back in the publicly-quoted environment.”

Wakelin also told the Telegraph that Biffa is considering the opportunities in developing energy-from-waste plants in the UK (such as incineration or advanced thermal treatment facilities), especially as the cost of landfilling continues to rise (it currently costs £82.60 to dispose of a tonne of waste at landfill in England).

He said: “[Increasing landfill tax] has made the economics of running recycling plant and big incinerators much more affordable. So you’re seeing a shift away from landfill and into more recycling and energy-recovery plants. But Britain is substantially behind Europe in this.

“We’re looking at other people deploying that technology in the UK. If we see that the technology works in the coming years and the economics work, it’s something we could invest in. But there are no plans to do so at present.”

Biffa is a waste management company headquartered in High Wycombe. It provides collection, landfill, recycling and special waste services to local authorities and business clients in the UK.

As of 2012, it was the second-largest UK-based waste management company, and is expected to generate revenues of £876 million and earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of more than £100 million this year.Find out more about Biffa.

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