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By Byron Kaye
SYDNEY, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Australia’s New South Wales state said it plans to raise $16 billion by selling just under half its electricity network, using proceeds from one of the country’s biggest privatisations for major rail, road and other infrastructure upgrades.
State Treasurer Andrew Constance said on Thursday he plans to sell electricity transmitter Transgrid, if the government wins an election scheduled for March 2015, followed by half stakes in power retailers Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.
Country-based energy retailer Essential Energy will remain 100 percent government owned, Constance added. Local media had reported that country-based state political parties opposed selling that business.
The sale - technically a 99-year lease - would create more than 100,000 jobs and boost the economy by almost A$300 billion over the next two decades, Constance said.
Australian governments have earmarked for sale some A$130 billion of mature infrastructure to pay for much-needed capital works in the next two years, as they struggle to attract revenue following the end of a mining investment boom.
The so-called “poles and wires” deal has been seen as attractive to large offshore investors like State Grid Corporation of China, the world’s biggest utility, as it looks to regulated markets like Australia as reliable opportunities.
“State Grid are sitting on a massive war chest of cash that needs to be invested outside the country,” said an Australian utilities analyst who could not be named as he does not formally cover the NSW assets.
“It’s a question (for State Grid) of ‘what do we have to pay to acquire it’ rather than ‘is this a good acquisition’.”
The government of NSW, Australia’s most populous state, had said it wanted to sell the electricity assets and hired investment banks UBS AG and Deutsche Bank AG to do a scoping study into how to sell the business.
That study recommended the sale as it was “likely to attract a broad range of domestic and international investors”, Constance said in a statement.
The NSW network had been widely expected to fetch about A$20 billion and Constance confirmed this figure on Thursday.
NSW plans to sell Transgrid privately but may “consider an IPO for Ausgrid or Endeavour Energy should market conditions indicate that this would result in a better outcome for the State”, he said.
An IPO would likely fetch about 1.3 times the asset’s regulated asset value, less than a trade sale which would fetch 1.5 times regulated asset value, the analyst said, suggesting the government would list the assets only if it cannot find a private buyer.
$1 = 1.2315 Australian dollars Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Stephen Coates and Michael Perry