Restored biodiesel blender credit boosts TravelCenters of America Q4 profits

TravelCenters of America location

TravelCenters of America Inc. (NASDAQ: TA) reported higher fourth-quarter net income Tuesday from the restoration of the federal biodiesel blending tax credit and selling 5.3% more diesel fuel and gasoline.

The operator of travel centers in 44 states and Canada reported a 1.4% increase in non-fuel gross margin because it sold more diesel exhaust fluid to newer trucks that require aftertreatment.

The blender’s credit, which expired at the end of 2017, was restored as part of the federal budget signed in December. Credits from 2018 and 2019 added $70.2 million to TA’s bottom line in the quarter.

TA will begin converting 20 private label restaurants to International House of Pancakes (IHOP) locations this year as part of a five-year agreement to eventually operate 94 IHOP locations.

Fourth-quarter net income was $43.0 million, or $5.29 per diluted share, compared with a loss of $5.94 million, or a loss of 74 cents per share, in the same three months of 2018. 

The adjusted loss from continuing operations of $7.21 million compared with $6.69 million in the October-December period of 2018. On Feb. 7, TA borrowed $16.6 million for 10 years from The Washington Trust Company, secured by a mortgage on one of TA’s travel centers. The money will be used for general business purposes.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) were $19.8 million compared with $20.6 million.

Total revenue in the quarter was down slightly to $1.52 billion from $1.53 billion in the same quarter a year ago.