US pair shrug off windfall threat with pounds 1.5bn Yorkshire bid

Two US power companies admitted they would have no problem affording Labour's planned windfall tax on the privatised utilities yesterday as they launched a joint agreed pounds 1.5bn takeover bid for Yorkshire Electricity.

The offer leaves Southern Electric as the last of 12 privatised regional electricity companies (RECs) neither taken over nor facing a bid. If the two US companies, AEP of Ohio and Public Service Colorado from Denver, gain control of Yorkshire, it will leave a total of seven RECs in American hands. The others are: Northern; Sweb; London; East Midlands; Midlands; and Seeboard.

Embarrassment at the latest foreign takeover approach spilled over into the Commons yesterday, with Michael Heseltine, Deputy Prime Minister, calling on other countries to allow outside bids for their utilities. He said he was "constantly urging the US and other countries to have open economies".

The Government is also likely to be on the defensive over the two bidders' reaction to Labour's proposed windfall tax. Linn Draper, AEP's chairman, said the US companies had examined various assumptions for the cost of the tax and had concluded they could afford it. He explained: "We wouldn't have made a bid if we didn't have a good example of the size." The comments were welcomed by John Battle, Labour's energy spokesman: "This just goes to show it's not the problem the Tories make it out to be."

The windfall tax bill would come on top of a possible pounds 30m which Yorkshire said it may be forced to pay back to its pensions scheme following a recent landmark ruling against National Grid by the Pensions Ombudsman.

Shares in both Yorkshire and Southern surged on yesterday's bid news. AEP and PS Colorado are jointly offering 927p a share for Yorkshire, 13.3 per cent above Friday's closing price of 818.5p. Yorkshire shares rose to 882p, a rise of just 7 per cent, reflecting some uncertainty over whether the bid would be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Southern Electric gained 23.5p to 770p.

Christopher Hampson, Yorkshire's non-executive chairman said the offer was "very full and fair". He continued: "We held out for a good price. We didn't accept the price that they offered at first ... it was a hell of a lot less than they're offering now."

Analysts dampened speculation of a rival bidder appearing with a higher offer.

Sources close to PowerGen, the privatised generator, played down the possibility that it would bid for Yorkshire. PowerGen was blocked by the Government from buying Midlands Electricity last year but is thought to have been examining another bid for a REC should Labour win the next election.

The two US utilities said this was the first time they had made a joint bid, but had been eyeing UK utilities for several months. AEP and PS Colorado have a combined market value of $10.3bn (pounds 6.2bn) and supply 4 million customers. They said 25 per cent of the pounds 1.5bn purchase price for Yorkshire would be financed by equity with the rest from debt.

They hinted yesterday at a more aggressive approach towards the UK gas and electricity markets after domestic competition takes hold next year.

Comment, page 17

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss