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China Three Gorges bids US$10.9b for rest of Portugal's EDP

China Three Gorges, formed more than two decades ago to build a hydroelectric dam on the Yangtze River, is offering 9.1 billion euros (S$14.52 billion) to buy the shares that it doesn’t already own of electricity giant EDP-Energias de Portugal SA.

[LISBON] China’s biggest clean energy company is offering 9.1 billion euros (S$14.52 billion) to buy the shares that it doesn’t already own of electricity giant EDP-Energias de Portugal SA.

The 3.26 euro per-share bid is 4.8 per cent higher than EDP’s closing stock price of 3.11 euros in Lisbon on Friday, China Three Gorges Corp. said in a statement. Three Gorges, already the biggest shareholder of Portugal’s leading utility and power-plant developer, said the offer is subject to the bidder holding 50 per cent of EDP’s voting rights plus one after the offer.

The Chinese company, which currently owns about 23 per cent or EDP, was formed more than two decades ago to build a hydroelectric dam on the Yangtze River. It bought a 21 per cent stake in EDP more than five years ago as the Portuguese government sold assets as part of a bailout involving the International Monetary Fund.

Three Gorges is now seeking full control but says it would retain EDP’s listing on the stock exchange in Lisbon. The deal is subject to several regulatory approvals, including from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.

Consolidation Wave

The transaction would advance a wave of consolidation among Europe’s leading utilities, which are acquiring assets and development skills in renewables as governments across the region crack down on pollution.

For the Chinese state-controlled company, this marks a significant expansion of its involvement in hydroelectric and wind projects from Brazil to Oregon as well as in Europe. It deepens China’s ownership of Portuguese energy and financial companies.

Speculation about a possible takeover has swirled for months. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa last month signalled he wouldn’t interfere with any takeover approach for EDP, saying it was a matter for shareholders to decide.

Before the bid was made public Friday evening, Mr Costa said he “has no objection” to a possible Three Gorges offer for EDP, according to comments broadcast by television channel SIC Noticias.

The Chinese company agreed to buy a 21 per cent stake in EDP in 2011 for 2.69 billion euros after the Portuguese government agreed to sell the stake as part of a bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Three Gorges boosted its share of EDP in 2015. State Grid International of China is the biggest shareholder in the power and gas grid operator REN-Redes Energeticas Nacionais SA.

New Markets

In addition to running power and natural gas networks in Portugal and Spain, EDP is one of Europe’s leading developers of renewable energy, building mainly wind farms and hydro plants. It has been expanding in Brazil along with Three Gorges.

Once Portugal’s state-run utility, EDP two years ago outlined plans to invest 1.4 billion euros a year through 2020 adding generation capacity in other markets including the U.S. Last year, it bought another 5 percent of its EDP Renovaveis, bringing its control of its affiliated renewables developer to 83 per cent.

Three Gorges will make a mandatory bid for the EDP Renovaveis unit, offering 7.33 euros per share. That’s lower than the unit’s closing price of 7.85 euros on Friday.

The Chinese company spent two decades damming Asia’s biggest river to feed hydropower to the domestic market. In recent years, it has been snapping up overseas assets both to earn a yield on its cash and to gain operational skills.

At the end of last year, it had businesses in 40 countries with a total contract value of US$15 billion, according to the company’s website.

Key Market

Three Gorges has installed power generation capacity of about 70 gigawatts, with projects on the drawing board that would extend that to 118 gigawatts, according to the company’s website. EDP’s installed capacity was 26.8 gigawatts at the end of March.

Brazil is also a key market for Three Gorges. The Chinese company entered the market in 2013 by buying half the equity of the Jari and Cachaoeira Caldeiráo hydropower plants from EDP and has built several more projects since. It also has been buying wind farms in that nation, notably from Duke Energy Corp. in 2016.


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