iCON buys Irish gas utility

The deal is part of a €1.1bn transaction to acquire Bord Gáis Éireann, the state-owned energy company, alongside Centrica and Brookfield.

London-based fund manager iCON Infrastructure (iCON) has agreed to buy 100 percent of firmus energy, an Irish regulated gas distribution business, from public utility Bord Gáis Éireann (BGE).

The deal is happening simultaneously to the acquisition of BGE's two other units by UK listed utility Centrica and Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management, as part of an overall transaction valued at €1.1 billion.

Centrica is buying BGE’s gas and electricity supply business and the Whitegate gas-fired power station for €210 million, while Brookfield will acquire the company's renewable generation assets, which comprise 321 MW of operating wind capacity across 17 wind projects, for €700 million. The Canadian firm is investing via Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners, a $13 billion vehicle closed in 2011.

Firmus energy, which was awarded a gas distribution licence in 2005, operates approximately 870 kilometres of gas pipelines in Northern Ireland outside of greater Belfast. Its network serves more than 20,000 customers.

The company also runs an energy supply business across the region, providing gas and electricity to more than 65,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Firmus energy is not the first regulated utility acquired by iCON. The firm’s portfolio also includes Mountaineer Gas Company, the largest gas distribution network and supply company in West Virginia, US, and Porterbrook, one of the three biggest railway rolling stock leasing companies in the UK.

The transaction will be financed by iCON’s Fund II, which reached its final close on €461.12 million last April. The vehicle had previously funded the acquisition of Verbrugge International, a Dutch owner and operator of port terminals, last November.