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The Times: Shell weighs Intergen sale

The Times: Shell weighs Intergen sale

“a sale would also fit with Shell’s aim of trying to restore investor confidence”

Lucinda Kemeny

Posted 16 August 04

SHELL is considering the sale of its stake in Intergen, the global power-station business it set up in 1995 with Bechtel, the project-management specialist. The business could be worth up to $6 billion (£3.2 billion).

The news comes only weeks after the embattled oil giant and BASF, the German chemicals giant, were revealed to be in talks with an American financial investor, believed to be the private-equity group Blackstone, and a Russian energy company about selling their 50-50 petrochemicals joint venture, Basell.

A Shell spokesman said: “We never comment on rumour and speculation, but we continue to review our portfolio of assets and that includes our shareholding in Intergen.”

Intergen, which is 68% owned by Shell, has 20 power stations around the world, including three in Britain as well as in the Philippines and Australia. It employs about 1,100 people.

In total the company has some 16,220 megawatts of energy either operating or under construction — enough to power 16m homes.

Sale speculation has surrounded Intergen since last year when buyers started circling the company’s three British power plants — Rocksavage, Coryton and Spalding — after rumours that Bechtel was keen to sell.

But both Intergen shareholders shrewdly held on to their stakes and waited for power prices to rebound from their previous lows.

The bet has paid off and energy prices have soared over the past few months amid supply fears, particularly in Britain, which is becoming increasingly reliant on imports to meet demand for gas. Big consumers are already predicting record energy prices for this winter.

Industry players believe that this situation will continue and International Power and its partner, Matsui, demonstrated in July just how valuable power plants have become when they paid £1.2 billion for the international assets of Edison Mission, the American power company.

The joint venture bought 13 power stations in Britain, Italy, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia.

Although the power market has recovered, a sale would also fit with Shell’s aim of trying to restore investor confidence by selling off assets that are no longer core to the business.

Should Shell and Bechtel decide to push ahead with a sale, Intergen has retained Citigroup, the American banking firm, to advise it.

The bank has already helped the company sell a development project in California and part of its Australian interests.

No decision on Intergen is expected immediately, however, with insiders predicting that it will not be until the end of the year that either shareholder makes up its mind on the way forward.

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