Foreign bidders allowed for latest Aussie infrastructure asset sale

SYDNEY -- Foreign investors are welcome in the final stage of New South Wales' 'poles and wires' asset sale after Australian authorities indicated they now in a position to give clear guidance in the review process, the state's Treasurer confirmed on Friday.

New South Wales (NSW) state will begin taking expressions of interest for a 50.4-percent stake in the 99-year lease of rural energy distributor Endeavour Energy on Monday, the final stage of its asset recycling program to fund Australia's largest infrastructure renewal project.

"We have already achieved outstanding results in our TransGrid and Ausgrid transactions and we are well on our way to delivering our target of 20 billion Australian dollars (14.83 billion U.S. dollars) to go towards new infrastructure across NSW," NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian said.

"These transactions are allowing us to invest billions of dollars into new roads, hospitals, schools, public transport, sports and cultural facilities, as well as vital water infrastructure in our regions."

Potential suitors will be hoping for a much smoother process after dogged sale of Ausgrid in October.

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison in August blocked the government's original preferred bidders: China's State Grid Corp and Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure from buying the network due to "national security concerns." Those concerns prevented any foreign consortium from taking ownership over the asset.

Fairfax Media reported on Friday, sighting unnamed sources, the new rules stipulate foreign bidders cannot hold more than half of the 50.4 percent stake, but foreign bidders can join to form a conglomerate if they have an Australian co-investor.

Though Berejiklian didn't confirm the restrictions for foreign bidders, her statement said: "the Federal government has indicated it is now in a position to give clear guidance to potential bidders regarding the foreign investment review process."

The NSW position is at odds with its Western Australia (WA) counterpart who has denied foreign investors from the first stage of a 51-percent public float of electricity grid Western Power.

WA Premier Colin Barnett wants to keep the asset in Australian hands, establishing an indicative target of 30 percent of shares to be allocated for local pension funds, while 20 percent of the 11-billion-Australian dollar (8.16-billion-U.S. dollar) float reserved for retail investors.

The 99-year lease for 50.4 percent of Endeavour Energy is expected to fetch in excess of 4 billion Australian dollars (2.97 billion U.S. dollars).

[ Editor: zyq ]
 

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