British finance firm beats utility to win share in major Spanish wind developer

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British capital venture firm Bridgepoint has beaten Spanish giant Gas Natural in a bid for 24% of Spain's fourth largest wind developer, Corporación Eólica SA (CESA). The deal marks the second time this year that a utility with designs on wind has lost out to a financial venture. It follows on the heels of UK power company Innogy's sale of two-thirds of its wind portfolio to overseas investors in January. As such, the CESA deal could mark the beginning of the end of a threatened utility dominance of the wind business after its series of acquisitions in the sector over the past 18 months. CESA has over 400 MW of wind capacity online or building across Spain. It also has a large project pipeline, reportedly including developments in Italy and Latin America. The Bridgepoint deal follows a split among shareholders in Basque engineering group Guascor, to which CESA formerly belonged. CESA generated around 20% of Guascor's total earnings. Bridgepoint acquired the CESA shares for EUR 75 million from Guascor's Joseba Grajales, founder of Spanish wind giant Gamesa. CESA's entire wind capacity is made up of Gamesa Eólica turbines. Whether the new ownership will mean CESA looks to other turbine suppliers remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Gas Natural is still on the look-out for wind partners and plant acquisitions following the launch of a strategic plan which includes a 600 MW wind power ownership target for 2008. Gas Natural recently entered Spain's electricity generation market, mainly on the wave of new combined-cycle gas plant development.

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