Finnish power company Elenia draws three bids as auction wraps up, say sources: Reuters

Three groups have submitted final bids for Finnish power company Elenia Oy, including China Southern Power Grid, Macquarie and Allianz and a consortium of infrastructure and pension investors, sources familiar to the matter said on Tuesday.

Elenia, Finland’s second-largest power company, could fetch an enterprise value — debt plus equity — of about 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion) in what could be one of Europe’s biggest infrastructure deals of 2017, sources said in September.

The company is being sold by London-listed 3i Infrastructure , with the buyer expected to be announced imminently. The final bids were lodged on Monday, the sources said.

The decision to sell the business follows several disposals of regulated grid businesses in recent years as European energy companies have sought to cut debt and raise funds for new infrastructure projects.

Australian investment bank Macquarie and German insurer Allianz have bid jointly with a third fund, two sources said.

The large consortium included Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC), the Netherlands’ second-largest pension fund PGGM, Canadian fund manager Alberta Investment Management Corp (AIMCo) and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), several sources said.

Elenia, PGGM, Allianz, Macquarie, QIC, ADIA and 3i Infrastructure declined to comment. AIMCo did not respond to requests for comment and China Southern Power Grid was not available for immediate comment.

Several sources said that State Grid Corporation of China had dropped out of the contest earlier, with one of the sources saying there were doubts over whether Finnish regulators would approve a sale of the country’s second-biggest electricity distributor to a Chinese state player.

A strategic review of Elenia was announced by 3i Infrastructure in January 2016. The business had been bought from Vattenfall four years earlier, with the purchase made by a consortium of 3i Group, GS Infrastructure Partners and Ilmarinen Mutual Pension Insurance Company.

Utilities companies’ returns are regulated by governments, making such businesses attractive to pension funds and institutional investors because of the predictable income.

Elenia made a core profit of 168.4 million euros last year on revenue of 315.3 million euros. It services about 420,000 customers in more than 100 municipalities.