National Power in play as golden share is redeemed

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The Independent Online

National Power was yesterday left exposed to a takeover after the Government redeemed its golden share in the energy group.

National Power was yesterday left exposed to a takeover after the Government redeemed its golden share in the energy group.

The company had requested the move from the Department of Trade and Industry, ahead of a demerger in October that will see it split its UK and international operations into separate companies. National Power welcomed the news, saying it would allow the companies to go forward "with a clean sheet".

The golden share prevented another party from owning 15 per cent or more of National Power, which supplies gas and electricity to 2.8 million customers. Four years ago the Government used its golden share to block a bid for National Power by Southern of the US.

The redemption also frees the group to undertake large scale share swaps with other companies, and will make it easier for National Power to justify bids for companies that are themselves still guarded by a golden share.

The DTI holds eight of the Government's total of 16 golden shares in privatised companies. Last month Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, indicated it no longer planned to use the device, designed to protect strategically important industries from hostile takeovers, to block takeovers. The Government has been pressed to act by the European Commission, which has threatened the UK with court action over its golden share in the airports operator BAA.

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