National Grid To Buy Lattice Group In $20 Billion Merger

National Grid Group, the monopoly owner of the electricity grid in England and Wales, has said that it will purchase the UK's gas distributor, Lattice Group in a deal worth about 6.3 billion pounds(US$9.1 billion). The agreed deal brings together two national monopolies and creates Britain's largest energy utility with a market value of around 14.8 billion pounds and 14.3 billion in debt. Together they form the backbone of Britain's energy distribution network. The takeover values Lattice shares at around 183-3/4 pence each, only a small premium over Friday's close of 172-3/4 pence. On Monday, Lattice shares were indicated at around 173p while National Grid clambered up 2.8 percent to 504 pence. National Grid's chairman James Ross said that the new merged group, to be called National Grid Transco, would be a “world class energy delivery company”. SG Securities analyst Philip Hollobone described the two companies as a perfect fit and said the deal was attractive to shareholders. "It should accelerate cost cutting in both parts of the business, create Britain's largest utility, and give investors a very large vehicle which will grow dividends by at least five percent a year," he said. Under the agreement Lattice shareholders will get 0.375 new National Grid Transco shares for each Lattice share. National Grid shareholders will have their stock renamed as National Grid Transco stock. A deal combining two of Britain's largest companies could attract scrutiny from regulators, politicians and consumer groups. Lattice Group was spun off from BG Group, formerly British Gas, in 2000. National Grid was created in 1990 by the deregulation and privatisation of Britain's energy market. News of the deal comes amid a flurry of takeovers in the European utility industry in recent years, with British firms often the target of larger operators on the continent. British electricity supplier Innogy succumbed last month to a 3.1 billion pound agreed takeover by Germany's RWE. Cash-rich German and French power companies have taken a stranglehold over Europe's fast liberalising power industry that leaves many of their smaller rivals across the continent struggling to compete. RWE, Germany's E.ON and state owned Electricite de France have spent billions of euros on gas and electricity companies stretching from Spain to Poland to build businesses which span the continent.