Private equity house snaps up leading Belfast-based energy supplier Viridian for €1bn
Belfast-based energy company Viridian has been bought by private equity firm I Squared Capital in a deal reported to be worth €1bn (£0.78bn).
Viridian is a leading independent energy company in the all-Ireland market, with two main brands - Power NI in Northern Ireland and Energia in the Republic.
The firm, which employs 480 people, has a 20% share of domestic electricity sales volume on an all-Ireland basis.
It additionally has a 27% market share of business electricity sales volume.
Power NI supplies electricity to around 610,000 homes and businesses in Northern Ireland, while Power NI's Power Procurement Business manages 600MW of contracted generation capacity in Northern Ireland.
I Squared Capital, which owns renewable energy and pollution control businesses in the US, India and China, is buying Viridian from Bahrain's Arcapita Bank BSC, following a lengthy auction process.
I Squared was formed in 2013 by former Morgan Stanley executives. It pushed ahead with its Viridian bid despite the potential risk that Britain will vote in June to give up its EU membership.
The value of the deal was not disclosed, but is understood to be in the region of €1bn.
Economist John Simpson said he was disappointed at the news of the acquisition of Viridian by another foreign investment firm.
"It's not really a happy day," he said. "That is because we have a major utility company now owned by an investment company whose primary motivation will probably be to make sure they get sensible return on their capital.
"While that is sensible enough, it doesn't really give it much integration with the local scene.
"I would be happier if part of the announcement said they are going to set up a local board or local advisory board for Northern Ireland and the Republic, or one for the whole of Ireland."
Ian Thom, Viridian chief executive, said that over the past decade the company had cemented its position as Ireland's leading independent integrated energy business.
"We are excited by the opportunity to work with I Squared Capital, which brings a proven track record of successfully operating and helping to expand businesses such as Viridian," he added.
I Squared, which has offices in New York, London, New Delhi, Houston and Singapore, said it would use the Viridian acquisition to push into Britain.
"That's certainly one thing that we would actively consider," added Gautam Bhandari, a partner at I Squared. "It's a buyer's market at the moment."
According to Viridian's latest accounts, which were filed in January, turnover reached €90.3m (£70.8m) for the 12 months to March 31, 2015.
This was down from the previous year, when it recorded revenues of €132.1m (£103.6m).
It emerged in September that Arcapita was putting the business up for sale. The firm, which bought Viridian in 2006 for £1.6bn, had been looking to exit since at least 2013.