Thursday 24 May 2018

EDF leads the race in Mainstream's offshore wind auction

Mainstream founder Eddie O'Connor
Mainstream founder Eddie O'Connor
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

EDF Energy Renewables has emerged as the leading bidder for Mainstream Renewable Power's auction of a massive offshore wind project.

EDF is believed to be one of two finalists participating in the auction, alongside a joint venture involving Shell and others.

Mainstream declined to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent. EDF Energy Renewables and Shell did not respond to requests for comment.

The news emerged in a report by energy trade publication 'SparkSpread', which said that EDF had gained ground in the process run by KPMG in recent days.

EDF Energy Renewables is EDF Group's UK renewables development company. French parent EDF is one of Europe's biggest energy businesses.

The project in question, known as Neart na Gaoithe, is located off the coast of Scotland and is expected to fetch more than €500m. A 15-year contract is in place to supply energy to the UK grid, seen as an important incentive for potential investors in the project.

A court ruling last November paved the way for construction of the project to proceed, after two-and-a-half years of delays.

Mainstream, set up by former Airtricity boss Eddie O'Connor, was locked in a battle with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Mainstream has said previously that it wishes to retain an interest in Neart na Gaoithe.

"Mainstream plans on maintaining a significant minority interest in the project, which we have developed over the past 10 years, and we want to see it through the construction process and into commercial operation," the company's chief executive Andy Kinsella said in November.

"This is a multi-billion pound infrastructure project and it has always been our plan to choose the right equity partner with whom we can bring it forward, at the right time."

Mainstream became Mr O'Connor's new focus after he sold Airtricity to SSE for in excess of €1bn.

He has spoken often about wanting to float the business on the stock market.

In the company's most recent annual report, published in September, Mainstream's former chairman Roy Gardner stated that the company was "aware that liquidity for shareholders is overdue".

"The business is... targeting a liquidity event for shareholders within the next two years. This may be initially on the grey market, with an IPO or trade sale a few years after that."

Mr Gardner was subsequently replaced as chairman by Mr O'Connor, who departed the role of chief executive in favour of Mr Kinsella.

Irish Independent

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