Hanson's Grid stake sale sparks confusion

The future of the National Grid was plunged into confusion yesterday after Hanson sold its 12.5 per cent stake in the country's electricity transmission network to James Capel, the broking arm of HSBC. The deal, which appeared to link the stake with a little-known Greek group with Saudi Arabian trading connections, sparked a wave of takeover speculation.

James Capel remained tight-lipped on its plans for the 210.5 million shares it had bought, refusing to add to a statement that it had "hedged the market risk of the holding through a structured transaction with Crescent Holdings GmbH, a member of the Olayan group of companies".

Athens-based Olayan was described yesterday as "usually a long-term shareholder". Its interests include Coca-Cola bottling rights and a Land Rover distribution franchise in Saudi Arabia.

The pounds 405m sale of shares in the Grid to Capel for 192.5p a share left dealers confused about the ultimate buyer of the stake. Wide-ranging rumours during the day linked the holding with, among others ,George Soros, the American speculator, and GEC, the defence and electronics group.

Some speculated that the sale might actually be no more than a ruse to allow Hanson to appear to comply with a requirement to reduce its holding in the Grid while retaining an economic interest in the shares. As the owner of a regional electricity company, Eastern Group, Hanson is under an obligation to cut its holding in the Grid to less than 1 per cent.

Hanson denied that it had any interest in the shares after the sale and described as coincidence the fact that Niven Duncan, a consultant to Olayan, was also the former chairman-designate of Eastern Group. Christopher Collins, vice chairman of Hanson, said: "Our transaction was with James Capel. This is not a case of us warehousing our shareholding. We no longer have any economic interest in the Grid, ownership rights or beneficial interest."

Shares in National Grid rose 6p to 205p on the takeover talk, despite the fact that the company's independence is, in theory, protected by a government "golden share", which caps individual stakes at 15 per cent.

Hanson became the single biggest shareholder in the National Grid with 210.5 million shares when it bought the country's largest regional electricity company, Eastern Group, last year.

The 12 Recs in England and Wales owned the Grid before it was demerged and floated last December. The regulator, Stephen Littlechild, gave them until the end of this year to sell off almost all of their stakes.

Hanson's Eastern was the last Rec to dispose of its stake. All have now complied with the regulator's order by reducing their stakes in the Grid to less than 1 per cent or handing on the shares to their own shareholders.

A spokesman for Hanson said the group would use the proceeds to reduce debt and described the sale as part of an ongoing disposal programme in the run-up to a planned four-way split into the group's main constituent businesses.

Under the Grid's articles, companies that hold an electricity licence or are wholesalers of power in Britain are barred from holding more than 1 per cent in the Grid. There is also a 15 per cent stake limit on other companies and the Government also has a protective "golden share" in the company, which prevents a predator moving in without consent.

Comment, page 21

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...