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Boralex considering off-shore wind projects in France for long-term growth

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MONTREAL - Boralex is considering adding off-shore wind projects in France as the renewable energy producer evaluates its growth opportunities over the next few years, although the Montreal-based green energy producer says it won't participate in large projects in the 600- to 800-megawatts range.

"But there are opportunities for smaller offshore projects in the range of 100 to 300 megawatts which would be Boralex-sized," CEO Patrick Lemaire said Wednesday after releasing an earnings report that showed a near doubling of first-quarter profits.

The company has already begun discussions with a developer that could be a potential partner.

Among the projects coming on stream over the next two years are the Jamie Creek hydro electric project in British Columbia, several wind farms in Quebec and two wind farms in France.

While those three regions present clear opportunities, it was unclear whether a potential change in government in Ontario would jeopardize new projects there.

This year's focus is on the 25-megawatt Temiscouata I wind project in the lower St. Lawrence region and the second phase of its Seigneurie de Beaupre wind farm in the Gaspe region of Quebec, which is slated to be commissioned by the end of December.

Boralex (TSX:BLX) earned $7.9 million in the first quarter, up from $4.1 million a year ago, helped by the commissioning of the 272-megawatt first phase of Seigneurie wind farm at the end of last year.

The Quebec power producer said it also benefited from better wind conditions in France and from favourable changes in exchange rates and higher prices.

Wind sector production and income more than doubled, helping to offset weakness in its hydroelectricity business, whose production was down 20 per cent in Canada and 15 per cent in the U.S.

Increased demand for power driven by very cold weather boosted average prices in both countries.

Boralex said the profit for the quarter ended March 31 amounted to 21 cents per share, four cents above analyst forecasts and up from 11 cents per share a year ago.

First-quarter revenue increased to $75.5 million compared with $50.7 million in the same quarter in 2013 due to higher energy sales.

"On the operational front, we continue to execute well. First, in Quebec, after a challenging start in the midst of severe weather conditions in December, the phase one of La Seigneurie had a great first quarter and is fully contributing to results," he told analysts.

Lemaire said the company remains on track to double its annual EBITDA to $200 million and generate about 950 MW of power by the end of 2016.

He said the company's ability to achieve milestones in its development projects is significant because it will add 30 per cent more capacity by the end of next year, in addition to the impact of 176 MW of power commissioned in the second half of last year.

As for solar, Lemaire said the technology doesn't have the momentum of a couple years ago even though earnings surpass wind and hydro.

"We're not saying no to investment in solar," he said, noting it can submit a request for proposals if an Ontario project continues and is still developing in France.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Boralex shares closed at $13.36, up 36 cents or 2.77 per cent on Wednesday.

Follow @RossMarowits on Twitter

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