Viridian Group is the parent company of NIE Energy Ltd. NIE was previously known as Northern Ireland Electricity, which was a government-owned body until privatised in 1993. NIE Energy remains the largest supplier of electricity in Northern Ireland, supplying about 780,000 residential and commercial customers. More than 20,000 of these customers are supplied from renewable energy sources.
Viridian was established in 1998 as a holding company to develop new business opportunities and was acquired by Arcapita Bank in 2006. Arcapita is a global investor, mostly funded by high net worth individuals and institutions based in the Gulf States. It has offices in Bahrain, Atlanta, London and Singapore.
In July this year, Arcapita sold the transmission and distribution business of NIE to the leading energy business in the Republic, the Electricity Supply Board, or ESB, for over £1bn. (The sale is subject to clearance by the regulatory authorities and is likely to be completed later this year.)
The transaction is of major significance to the future of the energy sector in Northern Ireland as it relates to the regulated network and is central to electricity security and planning for future supply arrangements.
ESB, through its ESB Networks division, already owns the electricity transmission and distribution network in the Republic of Ireland. As well as the networked system, ESB also bought NIE subsidiary companies NIE Powerteam and Powerteam Electrical Services. Under ESB’s ownership, NIE will continue as a distinct brand and to operate independently.
Only NIE Energy Supply, Viridian Power & Energy and the Power Procurement operation of NIE will continue to be owned by Arcapita. This means that the majority of staff, about 1,300, transfer to ESB, only around 340 stay with Arcapita/Veridian.
The objective of the deal was to reduce Arcapita’s debt, said its chief executive, Atif A.Abdulmalik. “This announcement is part of a comprehensive strategy to refinance Viridian’s balance sheet, and to deleverage the capital structure prior to the refinancing which will be required from 2011,” he explained. He added that the sale would “realize value” as well as “stabilize the financial structure” of Viridian.
Viridian continues to own a range of other energy companies operating in Ireland: Energia, which supplies gas and electricity to business customers; PES, which designs, supplies and constructs high voltage electricity networks for utilities and private operators in Ireland and the UK; HuntstownPower, an electricity generator in the Irish Republic, operating two gas turbine stations; and Eco Wind Power, an expanding operator in the wind energy sector.