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Lithuania seeking 'swift' approval of EU grid connection funds
by Staff Writers
Vilnius, Lithuania (UPI) Nov 6, 2013

Hong Kong tycoon eyes Nordic electricity unit
Hong Kong (AFP) Nov 06, 2013 - Li Ka-shing, Asia's richest man, is looking to buy Fortum Oyj's electricity distribution business in Finland, a report said on Wednesday.

A Dow Jones Newswire report cited a person familiar with the matter saying that the tycoon's infrastructure unit, Cheung Kong Infrastructure (CKI), is looking to acquire the operation and has hired bankers.

The deal, which could amount to $2 billion, would be another acquisition made by Li recently in the European utilities sector, stable returns of which have appealed to Asian buyers, the report said.

In June, a consortium led by Li agreed to buy Dutch waste management company, AVR Afvalverwerking B.V. (AVR), in a deal worth more than $1 billion.

The flagship infrastructure unit in 2011 acquired Northumbrian Water Group, one of Britain's biggest water utilities, in a deal worth nearly $4 billion.

According to the Dow Jones report, Cheung Kong Infrastructure has hired UBS AG as its banker to work on the deal.

CKI, chaired by Li's eldest son and heir to his Cheung Kong conglomerate, Victor, is involved in the development, investment and operation of infrastructure business in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

The 85-year-old Li was ranked in March as the eighth wealthiest person in the world by the Forbes rich list, with a net worth estimated at $31 billion.

Lithuania is seeking "swift" approval of EU funding for Baltic electricity grid interconnection projects, its energy minister said this week.

Jaroslav Neverovic, speaking Monday at a high-level European Union energy conference in Vilnius, called on the European Parliament to quickly approve the proposed $45 billion Connecting Europe Facility.

Its latest version includes $7.8 billion for energy projects aimed at integrating "energy islands" such as Lithuanian into the continental European energy grid and away from dependence on non-EU suppliers such as Russia.

Neverovic, citing the upcoming NordBalt electricity undersea interconnection project between Lithuania and Sweden as proof that EU financing can work, called for the European Parliament to issue final approvals for the CEF.

"Based on (the NordBalt) experience, Lithuania welcomes the Connecting Europe Facility and calls for swift finalization of all procedures in the European Parliament," he said.

The EP's transport and energy committees last month approved the European Commission's CEF requests -- an important step toward approval of the funding in the entire Parliament as well as its final stop in the EU Council.

Neverovic made the comments at the EU's "Completing the Internal Energy Market: Building an Integrated European Energy Network" event, where a list of 248 top-priority energy projects linking EU member nations together were unveiled.

Among the "Projects of Common Interest" qualifying for financing from Brussels is an effort to forge closer energy between the Baltic states and to the rest of Europe -- the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan.

Its goal is to create a single market for the Baltic Sea region and to establish inter-country connections. Lithuania currently remains connected to the Russian electricity grid, but the market and management of the system is not consistent with EU requirements.

Following the closure of its outdated nuclear reactors in 2009, Lithuania has become dependent on electricity imports to satisfy its demand. Most of its 2012 electricity imports came from Russia (63 percent), followed by Estonia (about 26 percent), Latvia (7 percent), and Belarus (nearly 4 percent).

The $740 million NordBalt transmission line, running 250 miles under the Baltic Sea from Klaipeda, Lithuania, to Nybro, Sweden, received initial financing in 2010 through EU recession recovery funds. The 700-megawatt line is expected to be completed by 2016.

Lithuanian grid operator Litgrid has predicted its connection will result in lower energy prices in the country -- were it functioning now, Lithuanian consumers would have saved $180 million this year, it said.

Due to sudden disruptions in its imported energy supply, electricity prices in Lithuania have spiked in the recent months -- more proof that the Baltic energy market "cannot work and provide the expected results without the sufficient interconnectivity," Neverovic said.

As well as the completion of the NordBalt link, another BEMIP goal is the construction of the $400 million LitPol Link between Poland and Lithuania.

Under that effort, a 500-megawatt line between the two countries are planned to be finished by 2015 with an additional 500 megawatts coming online by 2020.


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