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ESB in talks with Viridian over £1bn purchase of NIE network

Posted on: February 25th, 2010

Northern Ireland’s electricity network could be sold off for more than £1bn.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, Irish energy company ESB is in talks with Viridian on the purchase of NIE’s electricity transmission and distribution business.

It is understood talks have been going on for several months and Arcapita, the Bahrain-based investment company that owns Viridian, has appointed City investment advisers. Sources say an offer for around £1.2bn has been made.

A spokeswoman for ESB said it did not comment on speculation. Nobody from Viridian could be reached yesterday. Economist John Simpson said it should be noted that Viridian is made up of a number of different companies.

“It should be made clear that they are not bidding to buy the customer supply business in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“It sounds like they are buying the NIE transmission grid, which would make one transmission grid for the whole island but would raise some regulatory issues.” Mr Simpson said Viridian may be looking to make a capital gain if it did not see big profits in the business going forward.

ESB previously prepared a bid for Viridian in 2006, but it was bought by Arcapita for £1.6bn. Arcapita also ditched plans to sell off Viridian for around £2bn in late 2008.

Viridian’s other assets include Hunstown power station in Dublin and Energia.

Ballylumford power station, operated by BG Group subsidiary Premier Power, is also reported to be up for sale.

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