ESB buys Northern Ireland Electricity

THE ESB has purchased Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) for more than £1 billion (€1.2bn).

The company’s owner Viridian said the sale should be completed by the end of the year, subject to all conditions being met.

The Northern Ireland Electricity Group employs around 1,300 staff. As part of the acquisition ESB will also acquire certain associated companies of Northern Ireland Electricity, including NIE Powerteam Ltd and Powerteam Electrical Services (UK) Ltd, which provide electrical construction and maintenance services. ESB will also assume obligations of the NIE Group, including those under a £175m Eurobond.

NIE’s regulated asset base at March 31 was £1,007m.

ESB chief executive Padraig McManus said: “This acquisition demonstrates ESB’s continued ambition to grow our business in the rapidly changing energy sector on this island. NIE is a well-run, efficient business and will continue to operate on that basis.

“ESB is fully committed to delivering the significant investment in Northern Ireland’s transmission and distribution networks that will be required to deliver our common energy sustainability policy objectives over the coming years and we believe customers in Northern Ireland will benefit from this transaction in the longer term.”

Viridian Group is owned by Bahrain investment bank Arcapita. Group chairman Patrick Haren said the transaction represents an important milestone.

“It allows the group’s regulated network activities to further their grow thunder new ownership,” he said.

Completion of the transaction is subject to a number of conditions, including those relating to Irish and British competition clearances and a refinancing of the Viridian Group’s debt.

Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan, welcomed the deal.

“ESB is one of Ireland’s flagship semi-state companies and in the context of the single market this will bring great efficiencies and the ability to work together on renewable energy,” he said. Stormont Energy Minister Arlene Foster said ESB has been given assurances on a range of issues relating to the sale.

“These include ESB investment plans, the importance of securing existing jobs, and maintaining the identity of the electricity network business in Northern Ireland,” she said.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Utility Regulator said officials held talks with both sides in the sale to ensure consumers’ interests were protected.

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