British Energy hangs in the balance as investors sit on the fence

05 August 2008 / by Rebecca Sargent
Following reports of huge price hikes from British Gas and EDF Energy, news that both are considering the takeover of nuclear specialist British Energy comes as a shock to the industry.

British Gas parent Centrica, last week outraged its customers with a profit announcement of almost £1billion, despite energy price increases from British Gas of more than 50 per cent so far this year.

Energy prices look set to rise further, with experts expecting an increase of 70 per cent by January 2009. Consequently, consumers are advised to switch energy providers and move to capped energy prices that will undoubtedly save them money in the long run if these rises continue as expected.

Despite these increases, it seems energy monopolisers EDF and British Gas are still in a strong enough position to consider the takeover of British Energy, 36 per cent of which is owned by the Government.

Centrica was yesterday forced to announce its intentions following media speculation as EDF's reported £12billion offer was turned down by shareholders in British Energy, much to the Government's disappointment.

In its statement however, Centrica makes itself clear that it is only after a minority ownership position in partnership with a third party. Although, it also stated: "In the event that the third party does not proceed with an offer for British Energy, or Centrica's discussions with the third party do not result on an agreement, Centrica might consider a number of other alternatives with respect to British Energy."

However, Centrica was quick to add that its statement does not offer, "certainty that an offer for British Energy will be made nor as to the terms of any such offer."

Reports have arisen today that EDF has no intention of upping the ante with its offer, much to the disappointment of Business Secretary John Hutton. So far, British Energy itself has managed to remain silent, stating only that: "There can be no certainty that the discussions will lead to an offer being made for British Energy Plc."

© Fair Investment Company Ltd