Ireland shelves Bord Gáis sale

Ireland has iced its planned sale of the electricity division of state-owned energy company Bord Gáis due to the disappointing bids on the table, leaving the future of one of the country’s largest wind developers up in the air. 

There were three bids on the table as of Monday’s deadline, each hovering around €1bn ($1.36bn), compared to initial estimates which saw the sale being concluded for as much as €1.5bn.

“I have been clear from the outset of the offer process that Bord Gáis … would only be sold if a sale price was achieved which fully recognises the inherent value of the business,” says Irish energy minister Pat Rabbitte.

The ugly commercial landscape for European power companies at present likely impacted the number and strength of the bids, Rabbitte acknowledges.

According to press reports, the three bidders left – after many others walked away – were US private-equity firm Blackstone; Northern Irish independent power producer Viridian, which is owned by a Bahraini investment bank; and UK utility Centrica, which bid in partnership with Canadian renewables player Brookfield Asset Management.

Viridian had been tipped in recent weeks as the most likely buyer.

Bord Gáis’s wind assets are among its most attractive, with more than 250MW of capacity on its books thanks to its 2009 acquisition of Irish developer SWS.  

The Irish government has pledged to continue investing in Bord Gáis’s various businesses, with Rabbitte calling it a “growing and thriving company”.

Ireland was to privatise part of Bord Gáis as part of a deal with its creditors, including the European Union.

Rabbitte notes that “improved economic circumstances” in Ireland give the government more “head room” when it comes to its privatisation programme, meaning that it does not need to accept unsatisfactory offers.