OF Britain’s biggest energy firms are circling Ireland’s state-owned gas company as it gears up for privatisation.
Bord Gais Energy is to be put on the block by Ireland’s National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which is looking to raise cash for the bailed-out country through asset disposals.
Other stakes that will be sold by NTMA include a 25 per cent holding in Aer Lingus, parts of the Electricity Supply Board and forest manager Coillte.
Barclays Capital has been advising on options for Bord Gais for several months. It is understood that Bord Gais will appoint its own advisers to give a valuation of the firm next month, firing the starting gun on a sale.
Companies in the frame to bid include Centrica and SSE. Both firms declined to comment yesterday.
Centrica has no established customer base in Ireland, but has recently started developing an offshore wind farm in the Irish Sea.
SSE, meanwhile, is already Ireland’s third-largest energy supplier, with 750,000 customers and a string of windfarms across the country.
In June, the firm spent £256m on buying four power stations in Ireland from Endesa, pledging at the time to expand in the country.
Bord Gais has around 1m customers in Ireland, including a burgeoning residential electricity business.
The company decline to comment yesterday.
While the energy branch of the business is on the block, the company’s gas transmission network will remain in the hands of the state.
John Mullins, chief executive of Bord Gais, said in July that he hoped a sale could be completed by the end of 2013.
The coalition is trying to foster closer ties between the Irish and British power markets. Energy secretary Ed Davey last week opened a two-way link between Deeside in Wales and Woodland in County Meath, which will give the UK access to power from windfarms in Ireland.