Gas Natural not interested in Iberdrola carve-up deal
Rules out tabling offer for Belgian supplier Distrigaz27 February 2008
MADRID - Gas Natural insisted yesterday it was not considering possible merger and acquisition deals and had not held any talks on a possible corporate deal of that nature with third parties.
The chief executive officer of Spain's largest gas supplier, Rafael Villaseca, said at a presentation of the company's earnings for last year that Gas Natural was instead focusing on achieving the targets it had set itself in its 2008-2012 business plan.
"We are not looking at any corporate operation," Villaseca said six times in response to reporters' questions. "We are focused on our strategic plan."
Those questions stemmed from French power giant Électricité de France expressing interest in Iberdrola, Spain's second largest electricity company. EDF has held talks with Iberdrola shareholder ACS, whose chairman Florentino Pérez said Monday that Spain's largest builder wanted to play a key role in the consolidation of the Spanish energy sector through Iberdrola and its controlling stake in its rival Unión Fenosa.
There has been speculation ACS and EDF might launch a joint takeover for Iberdrola with a view to carving it up in an operation which could also involve Gas Natural.
The Spanish energy sector regulator vetoed a hostile takeover bid for Iberdrola by Gas Natural in 2003. The gas supplier also dropped out of a subsequent bid war for Endesa, Spain's largest electricity company, which was eventually acquired jointly last year by Italy's Enel and Spanish conglomerate Acciona.
Villaseca also ruled out Gas Natural tabling an offer for the Belgian supplier Distrigaz, which has been put on the block as part of the merger of Gaz de France and Suez.
He explained that European regulations prohibit the simultaneous involvement of buyers and sellers in such operations if they have close ties. Suez holds a 11.4-percent stake in Gas Natural.
Gas Natural reported a 12.3-percent increase in its net profit last year to EUR 959.4 million. Revenues fell 2.5 percent to EUR 10.093 billion, while gross operating profit in the form of EBITDA climbed 19 percent to EUR 2.276 billion. Villaseca described the figures as "satisfactory" as they keep Gas Natural on track to meet the objectives of its business plan, which entail investment of EUR 12.5 billion through to 2012.
[Copyright El Pais / ADRIAN SOTO 2008]