Essent ‘in talks’ with foreign energy firms: FD

Holland’s biggest energy concern, Essent, is at risk of falling into foreign hands and is already believed to be in ‘orientation talks’ with Denmark’s Dong, Italy’s Enel, France’s Suez and the British firm Centrica, reports Monday’s Financieele Dagblad.

According to the paper, Essent’s local government shareholders will put the company up for sale if their attempt to takeover the country’s number two, Nuon, fails.
Essent shareholders have asked merchant bank Lazard and the legal firm Simmons & Simmons for advice. A confidential report seen by the Financieele Dagblad, states that the value of Essent will fall by €3bn in the coming 18 months.
Currently the company is worth €10.4bn, including its grids, the paper says. However, Dutch energy concerns must divest these distribution activities by 2011. The remaining commercial division can be sold off, but network operations must remain in government hands.
Annemarie Moons, spokeswoman for the provincial government of Noord-Brabant which is Essent’s biggest shareholder (30.8%), told the paper that the consolidation on the European energy market means that there are fewer small companies left.
‘As a result, the relative market position of Essent, and thus its market value, is falling. We are thinking of alliances but the time frame within which this must happen have not yet been announced,’ Moons told the newspaper.
A merger attempt between Essent and Nuon last year failed and Essent is now interested in taking over its rival. Last week Essent’s shareholders sent a letter to the cabinet asking ministers to put pressure on Nuon to accept a takeover.

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