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Court ruling clears way for GIB sale

The High Court judged that the sale process of the Green Investment Bank, which has attracted fierce political opposition, did not breach any legal grounds.

The £2 billion ($2.4 billion; €2.2 billion) bid lodged by Macquarie for the UK’s Green Investment Bank is now expected to go ahead after its rival bidder’s last-ditch attempt to prevent the sale via a legal challenge was knocked back by the courts.

Sustainable Development Capital, which is understood to have bid for the UK’s renewable energy lender alongside the Pension Protection Fund, Mitsui, General Electric and John Hancock, last month took the UK government to the High Court over its decision to award Macquarie the vehicle. The firm explained that it did not believe Macquarie’s bid was compliant with the government’s criteria, a view rejected by the court.

“Crucially, this ruling is not about whether the government made the right assessment or decision,” SDCL chief executive Jonathan Maxwell said in a statement. “While we have strong views on that, the judge made it clear that he is not assessing commercial merits. The judgement that has been delivered now is about whether on the technicalities, there was an illegality in the government's process. The proceedings found that there was not and that the government was entitled to make this decision.”

The sale process conducted by the government has also drawn strong criticism from a range of MPs in Britain, some of whom have accused Macquarie – which sources say is supported by the Universities Superannuation Scheme – of planning to sell off some of the bank’s most valuable offshore wind assets.

However, these concerns were not part of SDCL’s legal challenge and the government told the court it is now in a position to sign the agreement with Macquarie. The Australian investor is understood to have been named as the preferred bidder six months ago. It is believed SDCL’s argument was based on the repeated extensions of the exclusivity arrangements granted to Macquarie.

“We obviously hold profoundly different views to decision makers in the government as to how to secure the best future or long term value for the Green Investment Bank,” Maxwell added.

Macquarie declined to comment on the ruling while the government could not be reached for comment by press time.