Power chief with a short fuse is in a hurry to make Iberdrola grow

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Ignacio Sanchéz Galán, the man behind Iberdrola's £12bn bid for ScottishPower, is known in the Spanish energy industry as a volatile character who does not care to be dictated to.

The chairman of Iberdrola has developed a fierce reputation for sacking chauffeurs who talked to him the wrong way or shouting at Hola photographers who kept him waiting too long.

The Iberdrola move for ScottishPower is also symptomatic of Mr Galán's desire not to lose control of his power base at the head of Spain's second biggest energy company.

If the bid were successful, it would substantially reduce the power of Iberdrola's biggest shareholder, Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA (ACS).

Floretino Peréz, ACS chairman and former owner of Real Madrid, bought a 10 per cent stake in the company in September and was widely rumoured to be keen to merge Iberdrola with another Spanish utility, Únion Fenosa SA.

ACS, which owns 35 per cent of Union Fenosa, was left in the dark about Iberdrola's foray for the Glasgow-based power company. But sources close to Iberdrola said yesterday that executives at the Bilbao-based company had been keen to fend off any moves to merge with Únion Fenosa.

If the takeover of ScottishPower proved successful, this would strengthen Iberdrola's position in Europe, making a takeover or a merger less probable. It would also follow in a line of Spanish acquisitions of UK companies, which have been made more attractive by tax breaks available to the buying company.

One source, who did not want to be named, said: "Galán is a vain man and he would not want to lose control of Iberdrola. This is why it appears Iberdrola is willing to pay an inflated price for ScottishPower."

Iberdrola is Spain's second biggest power company after Endesa. Its core businesses are wind power generation and gas. The company is one of the leading proponents of creating a single European energy market.

In the first nine months of the year, Iberdrola's net profit increased 26 per cent to £834m. But the company's revenue in its core Spanish electricity business fell 11 per cent in the first nine months as the company lost £351m, mostly due to regulatory changes in the Spanish wholesale market.

The power giant has expanded recently into the Middle East, announcing this month it had won a £839.5m contract to build a wind power plant in Qatar.

It has also been raising its profile in the United States and Mexico. It bought the American companies MREC Partners and Midwest Energy Projects for €30m (£20m). It also invested £349m in the biggest wind energy plant in Mexico, Altamira V.

Fifteen years ago, Iberdrola was formed out of the fusion of two electricity companies, Iberduero and Hidroeléctrica Española.

Mr Galán, 56, became the company's chief executive officer in April last year, after joining the company in 2001. Born in Salamanca, Mr Galán previously held executive posts at Industria de Turbo Propulsores, Grupo Tudor and mobile phone company Airtel.

Mr Galán was ranked 48th most influential Spaniard by the Spanish daily El Mundo which said he was one of the most high-profile Spaniards outside his own country. He was twice voted best head of a European utility in a Reuters survey. But in the top rung of the Spanish business world, Mr Galán has been cold-shouldered in recent years. In the energy sector, most companies form a collective body to try to put their case for any changes to the industry to the Spanish Government. But Mr Galán has departed from the crowd to offer sometimes unpopular opinions.

Another source said: "He burned bridges a few years ago by not returning the support which Endesa had showed in fending off a takeover bid for Iberdrola. This sort of thing is not forgotten."

In the past year, the battle to gain power over Endesa has been typical of the way energy companies have been keen to join forces. The German energy giant E.ON appears on the point of gaining control of the Spanish company.

At the same time, property companies like ACS have been diversifying into the energy sector. ACS bought a 10 per cent share in Endesa in September in what was seen as a bid to block the German takeover.

But in Britain, many will see Iberdrola as another member of the "new Spanish Armada" of companies launching raids on British firms.

Where their countrymen failed in 1588, when the original Armada Invencible was defeated by Sir Francis Drake, companies like Ferrovial, Telefonica and Banco Santander have proved more successful in gaining a foothold in Britain, by taking over BAA, O2 and Abbey National.

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