Posted on Wednesday 16 May 2012 by Ulster Business

Airtricity acquires Phoenix Supply PhotoFinal

Phoenix Energy Holdings CEO Peter Dixon (left) pictured in Belfast with Kevin Greenhorn, CEO of Airtricity, at the announcement that SSE is to acquire Phoenix Supply Limited

Airtricity has moved into the Northern Ireland gas market after agreeing to purchase the supply business of Phoenix Gas.

The company, which is owned by Scotland-based SSE plc, has entered into an agreement with Phoenix Energy Holdings Ltd to buy Phoenix Supply, the province’s biggest gas supplier, in a deal worth £19m.

Phoenix will continue to operate its gas distribution network business following the deal.

The acquisition is subject to approval by the Irish Competition Authority but Airtricity said it expects to complete the purchase during the summer.

Kevin Greenhorn, CEO of Airtricity, said: “We’re delighted to be entering into this agreement and see it as an exciting new chapter in SSE’s long-term sustained growth in Northern Ireland. This is a significant step forward for both Airtricity and Phoenix Supply as we seek to become the largest supplier of both electricity and natural gas in Northern Ireland. This is especially exciting as for the first time consumers in Northern Ireland, including Airtricity and Phoenix Supply customers, will be able to enjoy the benefits of dual fuel products and services.

“Through this deal we will extend our commitment towards serving customers, employing people, and making investments in Northern Ireland to Phoenix Supply customers and staff. We look forward to completing this acquisition as soon as possible.”

Currently, Phoenix Supply is the regulated supplier of natural gas to around 130,000 domestic and business customers in Greater Belfast.

Following the acquisition Airtricity, SSE’s retail supply brand, will become Northern Ireland’s second largest energy supplier and a dual fuel provider of gas and electricity to over 230,000 customers.

Airtricity entered Northern Ireland’s domestic electricity market in 2010 as a competitor to incumbent supplier NIE and since then more than 100,000 domestic and commercial electricity customers have switched to the provider.

Phoenix said it would continue to focus on investing and growing its core business, Phoenix Natural Gas, which operates the Greater Belfast natural gas network.

Peter Dixon, Group Chief Executive of Phoenix Energy Holdings, said: “Phoenix Natural Gas, our core business, is responsible for operating and extending our gas distribution network as well as developing and supporting the wider local natural gas industry. We have made no secret of the fact that our long-term ambition is to grow our distribution business. The activities undertaken by our gas supply businesses involve the buying of gas and billing customers for its use; these have been a separate stand-alone operation within the Phoenix Group for several years.”

He added: “Phoenix established the natural gas industry in Northern Ireland in 1996 and due to its success there are now over 300,000 homes and businesses that have access to this cheaper, cleaner fuel. In addition, the scale of the gas network has attracted three other gas suppliers to the Greater Belfast area. This growth has now prompted SSE plc (Airtricity), one of the biggest energy suppliers in the UK and Ireland, to extend its current activities in Northern Ireland and the Republic through the acquisition of Phoenix’s gas supply businesses.”

The Consumer Council said there should be no immediate impact for customers.

Director of Policy and Education for the Consumer Council, Aodhan O'Donnell said: “The news that Airtricity will be buying (PSL) should not have any immediate impact on the existing customers of either company. Aside from a potential change in name PSL gas customers in Greater Belfast and Larne will continue to receive their gas supply without interruption.

“Looking forward we would hope that this move could lead to new products for consumers and a strong focus on customer service. The prospect of Airtricity offering a 'dual fuel' tariff of both electricity and natural gas to its customers is welcome so long as it provides a genuine saving to consumers.”

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