Billionaire Li Ka Shing snaps up Wales & West

Michael Bow
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BILLIONAIRE business magnate Li Ka Shing grabbed another slice of the UK’s utility infrastructure network yesterday by snapping up gas distribution firm Wales & West Utilities (WWU).

Li, estimated to be the richest man in Hong Kong and ninth richest in the world, will take control of WWU through a consortium owned by his holding company, Cheung Kong, after investors agreed to accept an offer of £645m.

It gives the 84 year old, who rose from humble beginnings selling plastic watch straps and is known as “Superman” in his native Hong Kong, control of gas pipelines serving more than a quarter of the UK population, having acquired another major distributor Northern Gas Networks in 2005.

WWU was owned by institutional investors through a variety of funds, including Macquarie Global Infrastructure funds, AMP Capital, Canada Pension Plan and IFM.

AMP Capital managing director Boe Pahari said it was in investors’ long-term interests to sell the stake.

Li’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure, Power Assets and Hutchison Whampoa outfits will each take a 30 per cent stake in the business with the other 10 per cent taken by the Li Ka Shing Foundation.

Cheung Kong Infrastructure managing director Kam Hing-Lam “We are pleased to have the opportunity to acquire another high-quality asset, which is poised to extend our growth momentum and generate recurring profit contributions similar to that of our other infrastructure projects."

WWU chief executive Graham Edwards added: “Neither our customers nor our consumers will see any changes.”

It comes hot on the heels of another UK utility purchase by Li last October, when subsidiaries of Cheung Kong Holdings bought Northumbrian Water Group for £2.4bn. Li now owns or has stakes in six UK utility firms as well as telecom provider 3.