IFM Investors and AustralianSuper have made an unsolicited bid to acquire a 50.4 per cent interest in a 99-year lease of NSW power distributor Ausgrid.
The offer comes just over a month after Treasurer Scott Morrison blocked its sale to Chinese bidders.
The NSW government is reviewing the proposal and will make a decision later in the year, NSW Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian confirmed.
“The government can receive unsolicited proposals at any time and has a thorough process in place to assess such proposals,” Mr Baird said.
“If we are ultimately successful, [we] intend to manage the asset in a responsible, considered manner over the long term,” said Ian Silk, chief executive of AustralianSuper, and Brett Himbury, chief executive of IFM investors, in a joint statement.
Details of the proposal remain confidential but market watchers believe the consortium is offering over $10 billion
Chinese bidder State Grid is believed to have bid over $12 billion for the government-owned assets, while Hong Kong listed Cheung Kong bid $16 billion.
Macquarie deals itself in again
The consortium is being advised by Macquarie Group who also advised the failed State Grid bid.
IFM is owned by 29 Australian superannuation funds and manages over $72 billion. AustralianSuper manages more than $100 billion worth of assets.
In November, the NSW Government announced a consortium comprising of Canadian, Middle Eastern and local investors had won the 99-year lease for another power distributor, Transgrid, paying $10.3 billion in the deal.
Ausgrid supplies power to parts of Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and the Hunter region. NSW Premier Mike Baird is hoping to lease a 50 per cent stake in the asset for 99 years to help raise funds for infrastructure projects.
Treasurer Scott Morrison blocked the Ausgrid sale in August to a consortium of Hong Kong and Chinese bidders citing “national security concerns”.
ETU against proposed sale
The Electrical Trades Union says it is unchanged in its opposition to the privatisation of the NSW electricity network, arguing the sale of a majority work would lead to higher prices, cuts to services and job losses.
“The Federal Government has been advised that it is not in Australia’s national interest for Ausgrid to be sold off to a private entity, and our view is it doesn’t matter whether that buyer is a Chinese company or an Australian super fund, the risks remain the same,” said ETU secretary Steve Butler in a statement.
“AustralianSuper and IFM Investors need to make a public commitment that iron-clad five-year job guarantees for all Ausgrid workers are part of their proposal.”
with Rod Myer