(Dow Jones) The French chemicals firm Rhodia SA (RHA.FR) generates much of its profit from what one might think: chemicals used in the production of tires, plastics, detergents and the like.
But results released February 24 show the firm also gets roughly a quarter of its profit from what it has agreed not to do: pollute.
Rhodia reported that it swung to a fourth quarter profit of EUR28 million, after losing EUR28 million in the prior-year period, while sales fell to EUR1.08 billion from EUR1.13 billion. The company is paying an unexpected dividend of 25 European cents a share.
Its recurring earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda rose 42% to EUR200 million, topping estimates, as volume increases and cost increases offset an 11% fall in selling prices.
Included in those figures is the company's Energy Services unit, which generated EUR46 million of recurring Ebitda during the quarter and EUR165 million of the company's EUR487 million on the year.
And the bulk of that unit's profit comes from what are called certified emission reductions issued by the United Nations, set up after the Kyoto Protocol, to which nations apart from the U.S. and Australia agreed.
CERs, as they are better known, are awarded for each metric ton of carbon dioxide deemed to be avoided during the construction of a project.
And during 2009, Rhodia received 13 million tons worth, and it's expecting 14 million tons in 2010.
It's already hedged 40% of that amount at a price of 14.7 euros a ton -- a pretty good price, considering the CER Emissions Index for December 2010 permits trade at 11.27 euros a ton, according to data from ECX, a climate exchange.
Perhaps the good price isn't surprising-Rhodia with Societe Generale runs Orbeo, which trades credits, not just from Rhodia but other companies.