PPL in £3.5bn deal for E.ON's UK network

City A.M. Reporter
US power firm PPL Corp is buying German utility E.ON AG's UK power networks for £3.5bn in cash to create one of the largest electricity distributors in Britain.

PPL, which beat a rival bid from Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing according to people familiar with the matter, would also assume £500m of debt.

The deal, expected to close in early April, would create the largest network of electricity delivery companies in Britain in terms of regulated asset value, at a combined $7.8 billion (4.8 billion pounds), PPL said in a statement.

The E.ON business, called Central Networks, is the UK's second-largest electricity distributor and delivers power to over five million customers. It would add to PPL's existing pool of 2.6 million customers in South West England and South and West Wales.

The acquisition furthers PPL's move into steadier, regulated power provision and away from the competitive business of power generation. Units with regulated returns made up just 27 per cent of earnings in 2010, but helped by the earlier E.ON deal, were already forecast to make up half of this year's earnings.

The sale would also be an important milestone for E.ON, which is shedding some 15 billion euros of assets. It would mark the second big deal with PPL, after the latter bought E.ON's Kentucky-based power unit last year for $6.7bn in cash.

Hong Kong's Li had also pursued the E.ON assets to add Britain's second-biggest electricity distribution network to the largest, which he bought last year from EDF of France.

PPL's bid succeeded because it offered a higher price, not because Li's rival bid posed bigger competition problems, a person familiar with the matter said.