Crisis triggers talk of big sell-offs of UK arms

The crisis in Spain is by no means limited to its banks, as its vast power corporation Iberdrola, owner of Scottish Power, made clear yesterday.

Like many other corporate giants in the country, Iberdrola took on vast debts in the cheap money days running up to the recession to expand around the world. Now, with Spain's banks in retrenchment mode, its once-mighty businesses are finding themselves unable to roll those loans over.

Iberdrola's chairman admitted yesterday he would have to launch a programme of selling businesses not deemed central to its main business.

That led to instant speculation in some quarters that Scottish Power could be sold, or broken up, with potential buyers being named as Denmark's Dong Energy, RWE npower or deep-pocketed Russians being mentioned as possible contenders.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Iberdrola looked at selling Scottish Power," the said Investec analyst Dominic Nash.

Iberdrola denied the rumours but they served to highlight the uncertainty in industrial circles about Spanish conglomerates' ability to continue operating on a such a grand global scale.

Another major investor potentially coming under pressure is indebted Ferrovial, which owns Amey and the Heathrow operator BAA in the UK. It has already been selling down its stake in the BAA group.

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