New power play on cards

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The Independent Online
ANY NEW bid for a regional electricity company is likely within the next few days, analysts believe. Following the Govern- ment's decision not to refer any of the three pending bids to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, they say that any new offer is likely to be tabled almost immediately.

"It makes no sense for a bidder to hold back," one analyst said. "Three takeovers have been permitted, but 12 would not be, so if I was bidding I would like to be the fourth."

The City is divided, however, on whether predators are preparing to pounce.

"I would be amazed if there is only one foreign utility interested in electricity companies," an analyst said.

One of the bids currently on the table is from Southern Company of the US, which wants to buy South Western Electricity (Sweb).

Pacific Gas & Electric and Houston Light & Power have also both been mentioned as potential buyers

But another analyst is sceptical that other bidders are waiting in the wings:

"If a flood of people are out there, why didn't they come forward as white knight for Sweb?" he asked.