Australia approves Li Ka Shing energy deal

HONG KONG • Billionaire Li Ka Shing's A$7.4 billion (S$7.8 billion) takeover bid for power provider Duet Group has won foreign investment approval from the Australian government, paving the way for the Hong Kong tycoon to diversify away from his reliance on Europe.

Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison has no objection to the bid by a consortium led by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings, Duet said in a statement to the stock exchange yesterday. The deal was approved "overwhelmingly" by proxy voters, chairman Doug Halley told a meeting in Sydney, with 99.3 per cent support.

Duet will give Asia's third- richest man access to an energy network covering an area three times the size of Hong Kong as Mr Li faces uncertainties in his biggest market, Europe, with a string of elections this year.

The deal is Mr Li's largest in Australia, where the government last year blocked him from buying a majority stake in power network Ausgrid, citing national security concerns.

Duet's shares rose 9.8 per cent to A$3.02 at 10:53 a.m. in Sydney, compared to the offer of A$3 per share cash and a special dividend of 3 cents.

Buying Duet will expand Mr Li's interests in Australia, where he already own stakes in assets including SA Power Networks, Powercor Australia, Australian Gas Networks and CitiPower I.

Duet's assets include the Dampier-Bunbury pipeline in Western Australia, a stake in electricity distributor United Energy, gas distribution business Multinet Gas, pipelines business DBP Development Group and Energy Developments, according to Duet's website.

The offer by three of Mr Li's companies - Cheung Kong Property Holdings, Cheung Kong Infrastructure and Power Assets Holdings - was backed by minority investors at shareholder meetings in Hong Kong last month.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'Australia approves Li Ka Shing energy deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe