Lower than expected bids may hit €1.4bn Bord Gais sell-off

Bahrain-owned Viridian is thought to have edged ahead in the battle to buy state-owned Bord Gais Energy as the auction process stutters.

Last week, Malaysian energy firm Tenaga Nasional limply withdrew from the bidding process for Bord Gais Energy. This has left just two suitors – a consortium led by Viridian and British power firm Centrica – in a shootout for the semi-state firm.

Original estimates for the value of Bord Gais pegged it at €1.4bn, including debt. But last week, it was reported Centrica had bid less than €1bn, with the Viridian-led group offering more than €1bn.

The Bord Gais unit is being sold off as part of the troika bailout programme.

Proceeds from the sale have been at the centre of heated discussions between the Government and the troika, with the Government planning to use the windfall to fund job creation and to provide a backstop for borrowing on PPP projects.

Undershooting the expected price for the sale of Bord Gais Energy will have a significant impact on Ireland’s budgetary position. Canadian bankers RBC Capital Markets and New Era are handling the sale process for the State.

Ahead of the first-round bidding in June, Airtricity owner SSE and a number of private-equity groups were also said to be interested in acquiring the retail and power generation arms of Bord Gais.

Macquarie has been advising Viridian and Arcapita – the Bahrain investment group that owns it – on its bid. Financial Hermes GPE and Allianz Capital partners are also said to be involved with the group.

It has been suggested that Macquarie would take over the development pipeline of wind arm assets being created by Bord Gais, with Allianz Capital Partners – part of the huge German insurance behemoth – taking over the operations of the windfarms.

Hermes GPE is thought to be interested in taking over Bord Gais Energy’s operations in Northern Ireland, where it runs natural gas supply group Firmus.

Viridian is likely to be left with the Bord Gais retail business and the Whitegate power station as part of the break-up. This would give Viridian increased welly in the Irish market as it already operates the Energia business here. Source: The Irish Independent.