Australia vs. China: Do You Care Who Owns Your Energy Company?

How much do you care about the ownership of the energy company that powers your home? Are you the sort of person who likes to see their money remain in Australia, or are you unfazed at the prospect of your hard-earned cash heading into the pockets of overseas investors?

That’s something for customers of Alinta Energy to think about, with the company up for sale and likely to fall into either Australian or Chinese hands. The gas and electricity retailer is currently owned by TPG Capital – a US private-equity firm.

This isn’t the first time that TPG Capital has sought expressions of interest in Alinta Energy – Australia’s fourth largest energy generator and utilities company, plus the biggest gas supplier in Western Australia. The sales pitch for Alinta Energy claims the company holds a portfolio of 800,000 Australian energy customers and more than 360 employees across Australia and New Zealand.

While TPG has not publicly announced its motives for wanting to sell Alinta just six years after acquiring the company, industry experts suggest the move comes as a result of the continuing decline of grid energy demand due to the growing popularity of rooftop solar.

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Who will buy Alinta Energy?

A handful of potential buyers have already thrown their names into the ring as prospective buyers of Alinta. Most notably, APA Group has teamed up with former parent AGL Energy in a joint-purchase agreement that would see Alinta’s retail business handed over to AGL, while the pipes and generation assets would go to APA. However, AGL and APA are competing against a number of Chinese parties, which reportedly include China Huadian Corporation, China Shenhua and Beijing Jingneng Clean Energy – not that these names will mean much to most Aussie consumers.

What does this mean for Alinta customers? Well, it might sound frightening to hear that your energy provider is being sold off, but fortunately the effect on customers should be minimal – at least in the short term. Whether or not Alinta will continue to trade under its existing name remains to be seen and may depend on who buys the company.

For Alinta customers, it’s certainly worth watching developments.

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