Belfast Telegraph

Gas giant Firmus will be sold to leading UK investment manager

Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Firmus Energy, which owns a major gas network and two supply companies in Northern Ireland, is to be sold to a UK infrastructure manager for an undisclosed sum.

Firmus, which has around 100 staff, owns and operates the natural gas distribution network in 10 major towns outside Belfast, and has 43,000 customers. 

It also owns two gas supply businesses, one for greater Belfast and another operating outside the city. It supplies gas to nearly 50,000 customers across the two supply businesses.

Now its owners iCON Infrastructure are selling the network to Equitix Investment Management, with the deal to be finalised around the middle of next month.

Firmus’ parent company Deka Energy Associates reported pre-tax profits of £8.6m on sales of £93.3m in results for 2017. 

Firmus Energy was bought for £78.4m in 2014 by iCON, the ultimate owner of Deka Energy Associates.

Hugh Crossley, chief investment officer for Equitix, said: “As we continue to diversify and grow our portfolio, we are always looking out for attractive opportunities to acquire high-quality assets that meet our criteria.

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“Gas distribution is a new sector for Equitix that meets these criteria and complements the other sectors we invest in well. We are confident that it will add value for our investors.

“Equitix has demonstrated a strong track record in our ownership and management of a wide range of infrastructure assets and, as such, we’re pleased to be further consolidating our capabilities and adding this breadth and depth to our institutional investment portfolios.”

Firmus’s gas network covers Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Coleraine, Craigavon, Limavady, Londonderry, Newry and more than 20 other towns and villages in the surrounding areas. 

Michael Scott, managing director of Firmus Energy, said: “Firmus Energy is one of Northern Ireland’s leading energy companies, with over 90,000 customers across our distribution and supply activities.

“Over the next 25 years, we plan to extend our gas network to make natural gas available throughout our licensed area, connecting a further 140,000 customers.

“iCON has been a very supportive partner over the past five years and we look forward to delivering continued growth and high quality customer service under Equitix’s ownership.

“This is good news for gas consumers and the Northern Ireland economy.” 

Last year Firmus announced a 12% increase in its tariffs to take effect in October. This meant annual bills rising by £65 to £604 for the typical Greater Belfast customer. While SSE Airtricity Gas Supply and Firmus both supply the greater Belfast and Larne areas, Firmus operates a monopoly on natural gas supply in the 10 towns.

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