Belfast Telegraph

Centrica to table bid for energy company Viridian

By Staff Reporter

Centrica, the UK's biggest energy supplier, is preparing a bid for the parent company of Power NI, according to reports. Bloomberg claimed Centrica was eyeing up Northern Ireland-based Viridian Group Ltd, a part of private equity firm Arcapita, which has been taking advice on a sale of its energy arm.

An initial bid could come as early as tonight, with Australian financial services firm AMP also expected to table an offer.

It is understood Arcapita is seeking around £1bn,

Centrica, which also owns British Gas, said it would not be commenting. No one at Power NI could be reached for comment.

Power NI supplies electricity to about 610,000 homes and businesses in the province.

In the Republic, Viridian owns Energia, which supplies electricity to the domestic and commercial market. Energia also supplies business customers in Northern Ireland.

According to Viridian's latest annual report, Energia had 61,300 commercial customers at the end of March, most of them for electricity. It had 56,000 domestic customers, with 26,000 of those buying both electricity and gas from the company.

Energia's revenue fell to £893.5m during the last financial year from £1.01bn, while pre-exceptional earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation slipped to £65.1m from £70.8m.

On a group basis, Viridian, which also owns two power plants in north Dublin, generated revenue of £1.46bn in its last financial year, compared to £1.6bn a year earlier. Group pro-forma operating profit was unchanged at £77.1m.

Last year, Arcapita, which bought then publicly-listed Viridian in 2006 for £1.6bn, had talks with JP Morgan about a possible stock market flotation of the energy business.

In 2010, Viridian sold its Northern Ireland electricity transmission and distribution business to the Electricity Supply Board for £1.2bn.

The province's electricity supply market has seen a deluge of new entrants in recent months. Electric Ireland, Click Energy and Open Electric all joined the market last year. But in reverse order, the top three suppliers are Budget Energy, SSE Airtricity and Power NI.

Belfast Telegraph