Cheung Kong places 11th-hour bid for Envestra

The Hong Kong investment firm has offered A$2.37bn for the Australian gas distribution network just days before a shareholder vote on a rival bid by energy group APA.

Cheung Kong Infrastructure (CKI), together with sister companies Cheung Kong Holdings and Cheung Kong Power Assets Holdings, is looking to buy the 83 percent of Australian gas distribution business Envestra it does not already own.

The infrastructure investment arm of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing has offered A$2.37 billion (€1.61 billion; $2.22 billion), or A$1.32 per share, for the company. The bid trumped the A$2.06 billion takeover offer made in March by Sydney-based gas infrastructure group APA, which at 33 percent is the largest shareholder in Envestra.

It came just a few days before a shareholder meeting to vote on APA’s offer, which until now had been recommended by Envestra. The company, which saw its shares jump 20 percent upon announcement of the Cheung Kong bid last week, is now seeking to delay the vote.

The move is the latest in a series of high-profile offensives by CKI, which in recent years has been eager to step up its direct investments in large-scale overseas assets.

Last month, the firm was part of a losing bid for Australia’s Port of Newcastle, which instead went to Melbourne-headquartered fund manager Hastings Funds Management and Chinese state-owned enterprise China Merchants in a deal reportedly valued at A$1.75 billion.

In June 2013, together with Li Ka Shing Foundation and Cheung Kong Holdings, CKI purchased 35 percent of Dutch-based energy-from-waste business AVR Afvalverwerking for €940 million.

Earlier acquisitions included New Zealand's EnviroWaste Services from Ironbridge Capital for NZ$490 million (€307 million; $423 million) and UK gas network operator Wales & West Utilities from Macquarie for £645 million (€791 million; $1.1 billion).