Another developer cashes in

Hard on the heels of the lucrative sale of Airtricity's North American business, its board has put the rest of the international renewable energy group -- Airtricity Holdings Ltd -- up for sale. The company states that the decision follows a review of the strategic options for the remainder of the generation and electricity supply business after the October sale of the US wind division to E.ON for $1373 million.

The eventual buyer of Airtricity Holdings will acquire 14 operating wind farms throughout the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland totalling nearly 400 MW, nine further wind farms with a combined capacity of some 200 MW that are under construction, and a global pipeline of over 10,000 MW of projects in development, both offshore and on land, including some first steps into the market in China. Also included in the sale is Airtricity's green electricity supply business in its home market of Ireland, with over 35,000 commercial customers. The company is registered in Northern Ireland but headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, and has some 300 employees.

"After going through the [sale] process in North America, we became aware of the interest in Airtricity," says Mark Ennis, CEO of the company's supply business. There was also the issue of how Airtricity was going to fund its ambitious program of projects over the coming three to five years, he says. "Our current shareholder base would be unable to maintain the required billion euros per year of investment."

Airtricity is 51% owned by NTR plc (National Toll Roads), with British investment and advisory firm Ecofin holding a 16% share. The remaining shares are held by the original founders of the company and private investors. Ennis believes the bulk of the current top team will remain in place after the sale. As well as the assets, the purchaser will be buying into the expertise of Airtricity's management, he maintains.

With the bidding war just beginning, the sale is expected to be completed by mid 2008. Credit Suisse and NCB are the company's financial advisors for the planned transaction.