Jemena considers bid for $1 billion EnergyAustralia Iona gas storage plant

EnergyAustralia officials at the Iona gas plant’s opening in 2008. The plant has also drawn interest from other suitors including Australian pipeline owner APA Group and fund manager QIC. Photo: Damian WhiteJemena, the energy distributor controlled by State Grid Corporation of China, is weighing a final bid for EnergyAustralia’s Iona gas storage plant. Jemena is looking for opportunities to expand its business and is examining the Iona facility, as well as other options in the energy industry, spokeswoman Rebecca Harrison said in an emailed response to questions. It had not yet decided whether to make a final offer, Harrison said. The gas storage plant, which may fetch more than $US720 million ($1 billion), has also drawn interest from other suitors including Australian pipeline owner APA Group and fund manager QIC, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Final bids are due around the end of next month, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. EnergyAustralia’s owner, Hong Kong-based CLP Holdings, is selling assets and shifting attention to other markets after saying in February that it faced “extremely challenging” conditions in Australia. Lazard was advising it on the sale, the people said. Australia’s competition regulator has asked for comments on APA’s intention to buy Iona by August 26, and it is expected to decide by September 30 whether APA can proceed. Spokesmen for APA and QIC declined to comment. A spokeswoman for EnergyAustralia said the company is “pleased with the process to date”, declining to comment on specific bidders. The Iona plant in Victoria has storage capacity to supply up to 500 terajoules of gas a day, says EnergyAustralia’s website. The facility is used by energy companies to store gas during periods of low usage, which can then be distributed by pipeline to supply markets around Melbourne and Adelaide when demand is high. Jemena owns more than $9 billion of Australian gas, power and water distribution assets and supplies millions of homes and businesses, its website shows. State Grid, China’s largest power distributor, owns 60 per cent of the company and the rest is held by Singapore Power. The Chinese state-owned company is also weighing a joint bid with a Macquarie Group fund for NSW power transmission company TransGrid, people familiar with the matter said last month. Bloomberg