Alinta Energy, WA’s biggest gas retailer, is being sold to a Chinese company following a dramatic last minute about-face on the company’s proposed $4 billion sharemarket float.Just a day after confirming the float had been delayed, Alinta revealed today the near 30 hedge funds and private equity owners which own the group had agreed a sale to Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises.
Controlled by Cheng Y Tung, CTFE is described by Alinta as a holding company with investments across 50 countries.
Alinta’s management team, led by managing director Jeff Dimery, will remain with the group.
The agreement comes just days after Labor won the WA election having waged a campaign against the privatisation of power generator Western Power that was based on the likelihood of it falling into foreign ownership.
CTFE said in a short statement that it intended to grow the Alinta business “by pursuing appropriate investment opportunities in the Australian energy market as they arise”.
The deal is subject to the approval of the Foreign Review Investment Board.
CTFE’s holdings include the Hong Kong-based conglomerate New World Development.
Alinta would be its first major investment in Australia outside of property.
The purchase agreement coincides with growing competition in the WA gas markets, led by Wesfarmers’ Kleenheat business and new arrivals AGL and Origin Energy.
The utility has about 800,000 customers across Australasia, including 600,000 in WA where it controls about 85 per cent of the market.