AusNet shareholders overwhelmingly approve $18 billion sale


AusNet Services shareholders have voted in favour of a resolution to sell the electricity transmission network owner to a consortium led by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management with the estimated $18 billion deal receiving huge investor support at a shareholders meeting on Friday.

AusNet owns and operates the majority of Victoria’s transmission network infrastructure, as well as a large proportion of the state’s electricity and gas distribution network.

While listed on the ASX, AusNet is already majority foreign owned, with 32% controlled by the Singapore government’s investment fund Temasek through its company Singapore Power, while another 19.9% stake is owned by China’s State Grid Corporation.

The Brookfield consortium, which includes pension funds Sunsuper, Alberta Investment Management Corporation, the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario and Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, has said it sees AusNet as a “multi-decade investment pivotal to Australia’s clean energy transition”.

AusNet chair Peter Mason said the sale had been approved by the requisite majority of shareholders with 99.76% of votes cast at Friday’s meeting in favour of the resolution.

“The AusNet Board is pleased to announce the very positive outcome in the Scheme Meeting,” he said in a statement.

“The 99.76% of votes in favour of the Scheme is the result of a competitive process and underscores the board’s work to maximise value for shareholders.

“We would like to thank our shareholders, in particular our major shareholders Singapore Power and State Grid, for their engagement in the scheme process and support for AusNet over the years.”

Brookfield’s all-cash offer of $2.65 a share had already won the unanimous support of AusNet’s board of directors.

Australia gas giant APA Group had tried to outbid the Brookfield consortium, but failed to secure the required support for its takeover on the promise of preventing Victoria’s power grid becoming completely foreign-owned.

The sale remains subject to approval by the New South Wales Supreme Court.

The mandatory second hearing is scheduled for Thursday, 3 February. If the court approves the scheme, AusNet said in a statement it will lodge a copy of the court orders with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Friday, at which time the scheme will become legally effective.

AusNet’s takeover comes less than a month after the long-awaited sale of grid-operator Spark Infrastructure to a North American consortium led by private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts has been completed via a $5.2 billion “all-cash transaction”.

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