NGC bids due tomorrow

Indicative bids are due tomorrow for AGL’s majority stake in listed Kiwi energy giant NGC Holdings, with at least one bidding consortium interested in carving up NGC.

Genesis Energy chief executive Murray Jackson confirmed to EnergyReview.Net late last month that his company had registered an early interest, but only for the large industrial and commercial customers and NGC’s LPG business. Genesis was not interested in NGC’s extensive North Island pipeline network.

Industry sources say there are more companies wanting only part of the NGC empire and that they will lodge joint applications with others that are interested in complementary NGC assets, such as gas trading, transmission and distribution, and processing.

Other interested parties are believed to include Auckland energy network company Vector, which earlier this year was in merger discussions with NGC, and Aussie infrastructure investors Duet and Australian Pipeline Trust. Prime Infrastructure has essentially ruled itself out because of the debacle its takeover of Powerco is becoming.

Any purchase of AGL’s NGC stake would trigger a full takeover offer under New Zealand's Takeovers Code, though that it not necessarily a foregone conclusion given Origin Energy’s low-pitched offer for Edison Mission Energy’s controlling stake in Contact Energy.

Meanwhile, NGC has announced it is preparing pilot trials of intelligent electricity meters specifically designed for the demands of a deregulated, competitive market.

The trials, scheduled to start this month at up to 600 selected customer premises in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, will assess the technical and commercial application of a networked energy services (NES) metering system developed by United States-based Echelon Corporation.

The pilot trials – one in Christchurch in conjunction with Orion and the other in Wellington and Auckland in conjunction with Vector - follow a successful trial earlier this year of prepayment metering technology by NGC.

NGC chief executive Phil James said the trials demonstrated the initiatives the industry was taking to develop solutions that supported the government’s wider policy objectives for the competitive electricity market.

The trials are scheduled to finish at the end of December. The results will be fully appraised by the interested parties, and a commercial evaluation undertaken before decisions are made about a wider rollout of the technology.

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