NY fund back in bidding war for Bord Gáis Energy

In a bad omen for the sale of Bord Gáis Energy, it has been reported that the New York-based fund Blackstone has been invited into the final round of bidding.

It is understood that Blackstone is considering entering into the bidding process following the refusal of British utility Centrica not to raise its bid above €1bn.

Last month, the Malaysian state power firm Tenaga Nasional scrapped its bid for the power-generating arm of Bord Gáis.

The refusal by Centrica to raise its bid meant that Bahrain-owned Viridian was left on its own bidding for the State asset, which is being sold as part of the troika bailout.

None of the parties involved in the bidding process — the Department of Public Expenditure, NewERA, or its advisers, RBC Capital Markets — would comment as to who had invited Blackstone to enter the bidding process.

If Blackstone does enter the running to buy Bord Gáis Energy, it will bring the number of bidders offering more than €1bn to two and possibly restart the sale process.

However, Fianna Fáil’s public expenditure spokes-man, Sean Fleming, said the hurried sale of the State asset smacked of Brendan Howlin, the public expenditure minister, attempting to balance the books in his department.

“The minister might be desperate to balance his budget and sell an asset below value,” he said.

Mr Fleming claimed there was a lack of transparency in the manner in which Blackstone had gone around the deal. The fund had bid for Bord Gáis Energy in the early stages of the sale process, but decided against being invited back into the process.

“That might be normal practice in the private sector but when you are dealing with a taxpayer-owned asset, you shouldn’t have people inviting in new bids. There needs to be more transparency,” he said.

The sale of Bord Gáis Energy is key to the plan to raise €3bn as part of the EU/IMF bailout deal. The Government fought hard to be allowed to use half of the proceeds from the sale of assets for job creation measures.

It had hoped to raise €1.4bn for Bord Gáis Energy before the end of the year but none of the final-round bids have approached that mark.

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