There’s a lot of confusion about the Turnbull government’s bizarre move to ban both a Chinese government company (State Grid) and a publicly listed Hong Kong company (CKI) from bidding for NSW government-owned assets.
Since last week’s bombshell, much has been said about previous offshore purchases of Australia’s critical power infrastructure, so below is the definitive list of foreign power investments since the Kennett government kicked it off in Victoria 23 years ago.
US and British firms were the dominant early investors before Chinese and Singaporean players entered the fray in late 1999.
There have been 17 different investments by Asian players over the past 17 years, with the majority being controlled by private investors, notably through Li Ka-Shing’s now banned CKI along with China Light and Power, a public company that has Sir Rod Eddington on its board.
When you add up the investments by Singapore Power and Chinese government companies, Australia does have more foreign government investment in its power sector than any other Western democracy. However, there has never been a known security problem with any of this and with so much already committed, can you really turn off the tap now?
Anyway, here is the definitive list, with Asian investments in italics.
Foreign investment in Australian power assets
November 1992: The Kennett government picks up the Kirner government’s tortuous privatisation process of the 1000MW Loy Yang B power station and sells 49% to US company Mission Energy for $1.3 billion.
March 1994: Gladstone Power Station, Queensland’s biggest, was sold by the Goss government to Comalco, US firm NRG and a group of aluminium traders.
May 1995: Texas-based Tenneco joined with Santos to buy the Pipelines Authority of South Australia from Dean Brown’s Liberal state government for $304 million.
August 1995: Kansas City-based Utilicorp, AMP and NSW State Super buy Victorian electricity distributor and retailer United Energy for $1.553 billion from the Kennett government.
September 1995: AGL and US company GPU pay $950 million for Solaris Power, the smallest of the five Victorian electricity distributors based in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
November 1995: Powercor, the largest Victorian distributor covering the western half of the state, sold to US utility PacifiCorp for $2.15 billion.
December 1995: Texas Utilities buys Eastern Energy for $2.08 billion from Victorian government.
December 1995: Citipower, a distributor operating in central Melbourne, bought by New Orleans-based utility Entergy for $1.57 billion.
March 1996: PowerGen of Britain leads a consortium including Itochu, AMP, Hastings and NSW State Super which paid $2.43 billion for the 1800 megawatt Yallourn power station in the Latrobe Valley.
August 1996: Britain’s National Power and its US partners Destec and PacifiCorp paid the Kennett government $2.3 billion for the 30-year old Hazelwood Power station in the Latrobe Valley.
April 1997: Chicago-based NRG and fellow US utility CMS team up with adviser Macquarie Bank to buy Loy Yang A for $4.85 billion.
October 1997: US utility GPU pays $2.55 billion to the Kennett government for monopoly transmission company Powernet Victoria.
November 1997: Infratil and NZ company Contact Energy pay $391 million for Southern Hydro, Victoria’s small hydro-power outfit.
January 1998: AGL buys out US firm Energy Initiatives, its 50% partner in Victorian electricity distributor Solaris, for $219 million, giving it a 58% profit on its equity.
March 1998: Epic Energy, a consortium including American power giants El Paso and Consolidated Natural Gas, along with AMP, NSW State Super and Hastings, pay $2.47 billion to WA government for the Dampier-to-Bunbury natural gas pipeline, but eventually go broke.
November 1998: Victorian distributor Citipower sold by New Orleans-based Entergy for $1.7 billion to fellow US utility AEP.
February 1999: Texas Utilities buys the first of three state-owned Victorian gas retailers and distributors, Westar/Kinetik, for $1.62 billion.
March 1999: American group Utilicorp and its local partner, AMP, paid $1.97 billion to snare the second of Victoria’s gas retailers and distributors, Multinet/Ikon.
March 1999: Boral and Envestra buy the third Victorian gas distributor and retailer, Strataus/Energy 21, for $1.67 billion which is now part of the Boral spin-off Origin Energy.
April 1999: Ecogen Energy, owner of Victoria’s two small gas-fired power stations, sold by Kennett Government to US utility AES for $350 million.
May 1999: Gasnet, Victoria’s monopoly gas transmission business, sold to US firm GPU for $1.025 billion in the last of the Kennett power sales.
December 1999: Li Ka-Shing led Cheung Kong Infrastructure and Hong Kong Electric Holdings pays $3.5 billion to the Olsen Liberal government in South Australia for ETSA transmission and distribution assets in first Asian entry into Australian market.
May 2000: Texas Utilities pays $295 million to the South Australian government for a 100-year lease to operate the 1280MW gas-fired Torrens Island power station.
June 2000: GPU booked a $450 million loss when it sold its monopoly electricity transmission business, PowerNet Victoria, to Singapore Power for $2.1 billion.
October 2000: Utilicorp (now Aquila) and AMP pay $4.38 a share for a cornerstone shareholding in WA gas utility Alinta Gas before it is floated by the Court government at the knockdown price of $2.25 a share.
November 2000: China Light & Power progressively buys 92% of Yallourn power station for $1.84 billion as PowerGen, Itochu, AMP, Hastings and NSW State Super cop a $500 million loss.
November 2000: Queensland government’s Powerlink, ABB and Macquarie Bank form a consortium and pay $938 million for South Australia’s electricity transmission company ElectraNet.
December 2000: Scottish Power sells Powercor for $2.32 billion, barely more than its 1995 sale price, to the Hong Kong consortium Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings and Hongkong Electric Holdings.
May 2001: The government-owned Tasmanian Hydro Electric Corporation hands 120MW Bell Bay power station to US company Duke Energy for conversion to natural gas, complete with a long term management contract.
July 2002: AEP sells CitiPower to Li Ka-Shing led Cheung Kong Infrastructure and Hong Kong Electric Holdings for $1.53 billion, booking a US$125 million loss mainly because the Australian dollar was so low at the time. The retail assets were on-sold to Origin Energy.
January 2003: $1.5 billion Millmerran power station in Queensland begins operating. The 840MW station is the largest “greenfield” private investment in electricity generation in Australia. It was built by a InterGen/Shell-Bechtel joint venture with owners including InterGen, Marubeni, GE Capital, Tohoku Electric, EIF and China Huaneng Group.
March 2003: Alliant Energy sells Southern Hydro to government-owned Kiwi utility Meridian for $550 million which was close to what they paid in 1999 and 2000 to another Kiwi company Contact Energy and utility company Infratil.
April 2003: UtiliCorp (now Aquila) pockets $980 million selling its Victoria and WA electricity and gas assets to AMP and Perth-based Alinta Gas.
July 2003: The giant Loy Yang A power station in Victoria conditionally sold by CMS-NRG-Horizon for $3.5 billion to a consortium including AGL, Tokyo Electric and the Commonwealth Bank for $3.5 billion, crystallising a $1.4 billion loss in just 6 years.
February 2004: China Huaneng Group bought 50% of InterGen Australia for $700 million.
March 2004: Alinta paid $1.69 billion for US company Duke Energy’s gas pipeline and power plants in Australia and New Zealand.
April 2004: Westpac-controlled Hastings Funds Management pays $663 million for a portfolio of gas pipelines from troubled Epic Energy.
April 2004: Singapore Power buys TXU’s Australian business for $5.1 billion, booking a $513 million profit although the business repatriated no dividends back to Texas during its eight year operation.
September 2004: Alinta, Alcoa and DUET (backed by Macquarie Bank and AMP Capital) buy the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline for $1.85 billion from the bankers of failed Epic Energy.
March 2005: Singapore Power sells the Victorian retail and generation assets formerly owned by TXU to China Light and Power for $2.2 billion.
September 2005: China Light & Power invests $110 million for a 50% stake in Hydro Tasmania’s Roaring 40s Renewable Energy business.
November 2005: AGL pays $1.5 billion for Southern Hydro’s renewable business of 737MW of power across Victoria, NSW and South Australia.
November 2005: Hong Kong conglomerate CKI announces float of 50% of Victorian and South Australian electricity distribution businesses in a $1.5 billion-plus raising through a float of Spark Infrastructure.
November 2005: Singapore Power raised $1.3 billion though the sale of 49% of its largely Victorian gas and electricity assets in a partial float of SP Ausnet.
June 2006: Babcock & Brown pays $385 million to Chicago-based NRG for the coal-fired Flinders power station complex near Port Augusta in South Australia, which has a total capacity of 760MW.
October 2006: APA Group pays $535 million to the Queensland government for the Allgas energy distribution business.
November 2006: Origin Energy pays $1.2 billion to the Queensland government for Sun Retail, the major part of the old Energex retail operations. AGL pays $75 million for the smaller Sun Gas Retail business.
December 2006: Babcock & Brown Power raises $446 million in a floated vehicle which has an interest in eight power stations. The deal involves it buying the Redbank co-generation plant in NSW from Babcock & Brown.
December 2006: APA buys the DirectLink electricity transmission asset linking the NSW and Queensland power grids for $170 million from the NSW government-owned Country Energy, Hydro Quebec International Group and Fonds de Solidarites des Travailleurs de Quebec.
February 2007: AGL buys retailer Powerdirect from the Queensland government for $1.2 billion.
July 2007: British company National Grid sells the Basslink electricity interconnector between Tasmania and Victoria to a Singapore government-led investment vehicle, CitySpring Infrastructure Management Pte Ltd, for $1.175 billion. It cost $780 million to build.
August 2007: Alinta shareholders vote in favour of $15 billion carve up of assets to Singapore Power and Babcock & Brown. The Singapore government pays $8.3 billion in cash for the distribution and transmission assets across the country and various Babcock & Brown investment vehicles offer a confusing shower of paper for the generating assets. Controlling stake in gas pipeline company APA also distributed to Alinta shareholders.
April 2010: Shell and Petro-China complete $3.5 billion takeover of Queensland coal-seam gas company Arrow Energy.
November 2010: private equity firm TPG lead a $2 billion restructuring of Alinta Energy, the old Babcock & Brown Power, in one of the most complicated transactions ever seen in Australia.
December 2010: Origin Energy pays NSW government $3.25 billion for Integral Energy and Country Energy.
December 2010: Hong Kong-based China Light & Power pays $2.04 billion for the biggest NSW retailer, Energy Australia, plus the Delta West gentrader contract, two Marulan development sites and commits to spent $240 million upgrading the Wallerawang power station.
June 2012: AGL pays GEAC $448 million moving to 100% control of the Loy Yang A power station in Victoria.
August 2012: Origin completes commissioning of $810 million Mortlake power station in south western Victoria. It is Victoria’s largest gas-fired plant.
November 2012: China’s State Grid pays Queensland government $500 million for 41% stake in SA transmission company ElectraNet.
May 2013: China’s State Grid buys 60% of Jemena for an undisclosed sum off the Singapore government. Enterprise value of 100% estimated in this press report at about $8 billion, so a very big deal.
December 2013: China’s State Grid approved to buy 19.9% of SP Ausnet from Singapore Power for $824 million.
September 2014: AGL completes $1.5 billion purchase of Macquarie Generation from NSW government. This includes the Bayswater and Liddell power station.
September 2014: Snowy Hydro paid $605 million for Infratil’s Australian assets, including the Lumo brand.
December 2014: APA Group agrees to pay US$4.6 billion for Queensland Curtis LNG pipeline assets.
December 2014: Snowy Hydro pays $234 million for Colongra peaking plant, the largest gas-fired power station owned by the NSW government. See media report.
April 2015: Macquarie teamed up with Brookfield to pay $2.7 billion for Apache Energy’s WA gas producing assets.
September 2015: AGL sells 420MW Macarthur wind farm in south west Victoria to fund manager Morrison for $532 million.
October 2015: QIC pays $1.78 billion to Hong Kong’s CLP for the Iona gas storage facility in south west Victoria, generating a profit of more than $1 billion.
November 2015: NSW sells Transgrid for $10.25 billion to consortium including Spark Infrastructure, Westpac’s Hastings group, a Canadian investor plus funds based in Abu Dhabi and Kuwait.
December 2015: China’s government owned State Power pays $3 billion to a group of industry funds for Pacific Hydro, one of Australia’s biggest renewable businesses.
August 2016: Federal government bans State Grid and and HK-listed CKI from bidding for NSW business Ausgrid.
September 2016: private equity firm TPG looks to sell WA-based Alinta Energy business for about $3 billion after picking it up from the old Babcock & Brown Power in 2010.