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Pacific Ethanol's Sales Can't Beat Higher Costs

The ethanol producer reported that its net loss widened in the fourth quarter despite a 34% increase in ethanol sales.

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On March 31, 2009,

Pacific Ethanol


reported that its Q4 FY08 net loss widened on the back of higher costs. Net loss available to common stockholders more than doubled to $34.70 million or $0.61 per share from $15.77 million or $0.39 per share in Q4 FY07. The most recent consensus estimate was a loss of $0.31 per share.

Net sales grew 23.0% to $160.44 million from $130.39 million a year ago, driven by higher volumes along with increase in average sales prices.

Ethanol sales surged 33.9% to 77.40 million gallons from 57.80 million gallons in the year-ago quarter, attributable to the commencement of operations at two additional ethanol production facilities in 2008. In addition, the average selling price of ethanol rose 4.7% to $2.25 per gallon at the end of Q4 FY08, while the company's average corn prices increased 52.9% to $5.52 per bushel as of December 31, 2008. Finally, the average CBOT market price of ethanol per gallon for FY08 was up 12.1% to $2.22 per gallon, while the average CBOT corn price per bushel spiked 40.9% to $5.27 per gallon.

The gross profit margin deteriorated to a negative 18.21% from 1.29%, hurt by a 47.4% rise in the cost of goods sold to $189.66 million. Selling, general, and administrative expenses were up 6.2% to $7.52 million from $7.08 million. Subsequently, operating margin widened to negative 22.90% from a negative 4.14% a year ago.

The company has temporarily suspended operations at two of its facilities in Burley, ID and Stockton, CA due to extended unfavorable market conditions for ethanol production.

For FY08, PEIX reported a net loss of $146.55 million or $3.02 per share compared to a loss of $14.40 million or $0.47 per share a year ago. However, annual sales soared 52.5% to $703.93 million from $461.51 million in FY07.