UK Green Investment Bank Plc will not be sold to asset-strippers, the British government has said.
Created in 2012, the fully state-owned, Edinburgh-based bank helps attract private funds to finance green projects in the U.K. The government now seeks to transfer it to the private sector, citing the need to attract new investors to fund fresh growth.
But this move has come under the spotlight, amid accusations that potential buyer Macquarie Group Ltd. may strip it of its assets. A report by think tank E3G and Greenpeace revealed that 10 new companies had been registered to GIB's London offices, a move which former Business Secretary Vince Cable thought could be a prelude to breaking it up.
In a parliamentary debate Jan. 25, Nick Hurd, minister for climate change and industry, told lawmakers that conversations with the preferred bidder were ongoing, but declined to confirm Macquarie's identity as a bidder, citing commercial confidentiality. He also stressed that no decision has yet been taken regarding a sale.
Members of Parliament of all hues repeated accusations of asset-stripping, and Macquarie came in for fierce criticism.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, criticized the Australian bank's environmental and financial record, saying it was "unfit" to be a custodian of GIB. Michelle Thomson, the independent MP for Edinburgh West who called the Westminster Hall debate, questioned Macquarie's suitability as a buyer, asking what level of U.K. control could be maintained following a sale. She queried the efficacy of the government's plan to keep a so-called golden share in the business.
Speaking for the opposition, Alan Whitehead, the Labour MP for Southampton Test, questioned the timing of the sale, given that the U.K.'s move to leave the European Union throws into doubt continued investment from the European Investment Bank, another important investor in U.K. green projects.
However, Hurd said the government is not interested in selling to an asset-stripper and that any acquirer would need to buy into the ethos of GIB.
When contacted by S&P Global Market Intelligence, Macquarie said it was committed to investment in the U.K. and renewables. It said its managed funds had arranged for or invested more than £8.5 billion of capital into green energy projects globally since 2010, including the Teeside bioenergy plant, and Race Bank, one of the U.K.'s largest offshore wind farms. The firm did not comment on its position as a preferred bidder for GIB.
During the debate, lawmakers urged the government to explore other options for GIB. These include a sale to rival bidder SDCL, a consortium that includes the Pension Protection Fund, Mitsui and General Electric, or even an initial public offering.
Representatives for SDCL did not respond to comment, but, in a statement cited by the Financial Times, it said its bid would "further the green agenda of the GIB ... while meeting the objectives of the privatization."