Ulster electricity sell-off postponed

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THE pounds 250m- pounds 350m flotation of Northern Ireland Electricity, due to take place this November, was postponed by the Government yesterday.

The reason for the delay is that funding is not yet in place for an interconnector between Northern Ireland and Scotland that will provide the province with up to 20 per cent of its electricity supplies.

The Government has applied to the European Commission for a pounds 60m- pounds 70m subsidy to help pay for construction of the pounds 170m link. But the application is still being assessed by Brussels. Without EC support the finances of Northern Ireland Electricity would be overstretched.

Announcing the postponement, Robert Atkins, Northern Ireland minister, said the Government remained committed to the privatisation of Northern Ireland Electricity. But he added: 'It would clearly not make sense to proceed with the flotation with such important matters unresolved.'

The next most likely date for the flotation is late spring 1993, shortly after the Budget.

Northern Ireland Electricity is responsible for the transmission, distribution and supply of electricity.

The province's four power stations were privatised early this year through a trade sale that raised pounds 350m. Delays in the sale of the generators, which clashed with the general election, were another factor contributing to yesterday's postponement.

The sale of Northern Ireland Electricity will take the form of a public offer aimed at its customers with a portion of shares held back for institutions.