- Firstgas Group (Firstgas), owned by Igneo Infrastructure Partners (Igneo), will buy 100% of Eastland Network for $260m.
- The asset book value of Eastland Network as at 31 March 2022 was $185m.
- Upon settlement, the proceeds will be split between Trust Tairāwhiti and Eastland Group.
- A special distribution of $80m will be provided to Trust Tairāwhiti.
- Trust Tairāwhiti confirms Igneo meets the best-for-region buyer criteria.
- The sale remains conditional on OIO approval and is anticipated to be finalised in early 2023.
Eastland Group and its sole shareholder Trust Tairāwhiti have announced the sale of Eastland Network to Firstgas, owned by Igneo Infrastructure Partners, for $260 million.
Eastland Network is the electricity lines company for Tairāwhiti and Wairoa, delivering power to nearly 26,000 customers across 12,000 square kilometres.
The proceeds from the sale will be split with sole shareholder Trust Tairāwhiti, which will receive $80 million (made up of a return of $30m of capital notes and a special distribution of $50m), with Eastland Group retaining the balance.
Igneo Infrastructure Partners, part of the First Sentier Investors Group, has been investing in infrastructure for more than 30 years and is one of the leading infrastructure asset managers worldwide. Its investments in New Zealand include Tuatahi First Fibre, along with Firstgas and Waste Management New Zealand, which already service consumers and businesses in the Tairāwhiti region.
Firstgas Group provides the infrastructure to deliver natural gas, and supplies LPG to more than 430,000 Kiwi homes and businesses every day.
The sale of Eastland Network remains conditional on approval from the Overseas Investment Office.
Chair of Eastland Group, Matanuku Mahuika says the network sale to Firstgas for $260 million is an outstanding result.
“This sale marks an exciting time for Tairāwhiti, as it will release significant capital for Eastland Group’s strong pipeline of projects, including local and national renewable energy opportunities, and for a special distribution to Trust Tairāwhiti.
“Firstgas has significant expertise in managing regulated utilities, and is supported by its shareholder Igneo, an experienced infrastructure operator. Importantly, it has the scale and expertise to own Eastland Network so that it can continue to deliver for Tairāwhiti into the future.
“Under Firstgas ownership, the day-to-day operations will remain based in Tairāwhiti, retaining local staff, contractors and expertise. The regulations that apply to Eastland Network mean there are ongoing protections for local consumers around price and quality of supply.”
Chair of Trust Tairāwhiti, John Clarke says Trustees are excited about the opportunities the sale will unlock for Tairāwhiti and its communities.
“From the outset, we said that we would only sell to the right buyer on the right terms to deliver for Tairāwhiti. After careful consideration, Trustees are confident we have selected a high quality buyer with an excellent track record that meets all our criteria. We have made this decision in the best interests of Trust beneficiaries and the company over the long term.
“The sale will release $80 million in funds to the Trust, allowing the Trust to continue to build and diversify its investment portfolio for future generations in Tairāwhiti. It will also allow us to fund more regional projects and facilities, and boost investments in regional economic development.”
Paul Goodeve, CEO of Firstgas, said, “Firstgas Group’s expertise is in the management and operation of regulated utilities. Our expertise in disciplines including project management, regulation and asset management are as applicable to electricity networks as they are to gas pipelines.
“We have a gas distribution network in Gisborne and we are excited about possible opportunities for Firstgas and Eastland to work together across the networks. Working with our shareholder Igneo, we will be able to fund the level of investment in the network that will be required to help support the prosperity of the region and wellbeing of its people.”
OIO approval is expected within three to six months, with settlement to follow. In the meantime, it’s business as usual for the Eastland Network team.
Forsyth Barr acted as Eastland Group’s Financial Advisor in respect of this transaction.
For further information, please see: https://trusttairawhiti.nz/network-sale.
Eastland Group is a regional infrastructure specialist headquartered in Gisborne, Tairāwhiti. The company operates Eastland Network, Eastland Port and Gisborne Airport in Tairāwhiti, while their Generation sector owns three geothermal power stations in the Bay of Plenty and a hydro scheme near Wairoa. Eastland Group is actively exploring opportunities to invest in renewable energy generation in its home region, including a recently consented utility scale solar power plant at Gisborne Airport. Eastland Group is owned by sole shareholder Trust Tairāwhiti and returns millions of dollars to the Trust every year, to support regional wellbeing. Eastland Group and Trust Tairāwhiti are members of the Climate Leaders Coalition.
About Eastland Network
Eastland Network is the electricity lines company for Gisborne, Wairoa and the East Coast. In the year to 31 March 2022, Eastland Network delivered 287.7 GWh to nearly 26,000 customers across 12,000 square kilometres. Eastland Network’s focus on sustainability includes building the regionwide network of electric vehicle chargers.
About Trust Tairāwhiti
Trust Tairāwhiti focuses on regional wellbeing, with a strategic emphasis on community initiatives, economic development and providing for future generations. It formed following the electricity reforms in the early 1990s, when the majority of Tairāwhiti residents supported the $20 million equity of the local power board being retained in region through a community trust ownership model. The Trust Deed outlines its two central objectives – to preserve the capital of the Trust and to provide for beneficiaries (the people of Tairāwhiti). Guided by its wellbeing framework, He Rangitapu, He Tohu Ora, the Trust invests by enabling others through grant funding, delivering targeted operations and capital investments including through Eastland Group. The Trust has significantly evolved and grown over time and is now also the regional Economic Development Agency and Regional Tourism Organisation, under a funding partnership with the Gisborne District Council. Since its inception, the Trust has distributed over $61 million in funding to a diverse range of community initiatives and facilities.
About Igneo Infrastructure Partners
Igneo is an autonomous investment team in the First Sentier Investors Group. It invests in high-quality, mature, mid-market infrastructure companies in the utilities and transport sectors in the UK, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Operating since 1994, the team works closely with portfolio companies to create long-term sustainable value through innovation, a focus on ESG and proactive asset management. Igneo manages US$14.9 bn worth of assets (as at 30 September 2022) on behalf of more than 120 investors around the world.
Based in New Plymouth, Taranaki, Firstgas Group is a brand covering Firstgas Limited, Rockgas Limited, Flexgas Limited, Gas Services NZ Limited and First Renewables Limited Firstgas and Rockgas are brands that connect and deliver natural gas and supply LPG (respectively) to 136,000 customers through their gas network of over 2,500km of high-pressure transmission pipeline and 4,800km of distribution pipeline in the North Island, 35 LPG suppliers and over 180 Refill & Save locations across New Zealand.
Flexgas and Gas Services NZ are energy storage, operations and maintenance brands who make sure gas can be delivered safely and continuously. Flexgas operates the Ahuroa gas storage facility in central Taranaki. Gas Services NZ provides operational and maintenance support to all gas infrastructure owners, including the brands within Firstgas Group.
Firstgas Group is a member of the Climate Leaders Coalition. Thanks to extensive research over the past four years and close monitoring of international efforts, we’re planning our route towards distributing cleaner, more energy efficient renewable gas – and to ultimately helping New Zealand reach its net zero-carbon goal by 2050.