Belfast Telegraph

Phoenix Energy sale 'to revitalise interest in Northern Ireland'

By Lesley Houston

An international law firm have said the sale of Phoenix Energy to global investment firm Hastings could act as a cataylst for the mergers and acquisition market here.

Lawyers at the Belfast office of Pinsent Masons, who acted on the deal, said "the sale of Phoenix Gas could revitalise interest in Northern Ireland acquisitions".

Corporate partner and Head of Office Paul McBride yesterday said: "Attracting a global investor like Hastings may prompt other cash-rich international investment houses to revisit plans for deal-making in Northern Ireland as they seek to add greater diversity to their portfolios. Clearly the work of our ministers at Stormont in promoting Northern Ireland as a place to do business and the attractiveness of some of our assets and major companies is already paying dividends."

His comments follow Terra Firma's sale of Belfast-based Phoenix Natural Gas to Hasting's Utilities Trust of Australia and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Pension Fund, which completed last week. The deal follows Terra Firma's sale of the supply side of the Phoenix gas business to Airtricity last year.

Mr McBride added: "Until now infrastructure fund and private equity activity has been cautious about Northern Ireland as confidence dipped in the wake of the downturn. Hopefully, with the GB economy seemingly through the worst and some green shoots starting to emerge, people might just see this deal and decide now is the time to get back into the market while vendor expectations remain reasonable."

He said not only will the Phoenix deal encourage other houses to go to market with Belfast-based portfolio companies, it will attract more investors to Northern Ireland that may have traditionally focused on European or emerging markets entities.

Belfast Telegraph