Halt GIB sale to prevent asset stripping, says Barker

The Government should halt the sale of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) to prevent it being broken up and stripped of assets, former Energy Minister Greg Barker has insisted.

Control over the bank should be retained by ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) who have the “right vision” and “understand its value”.

Barker made the comments after the Times reported that Macquarie – the Australian bank which is poised to take over the GIB – has already lined up a series of potential buyers for the GIB’s most valuable assets, which include wind farms and biomass plants.  

A source in the financial sector who had been briefed on Macquarie’s plans said it “makes sense” for the firm to sell off these assets because “it already has a large portfolio of wind farms and is not active in biomass.”

Barker said the plans heralded a “break up” of the bank. “I have written directly to the [prime minister] to rethink [the] sale of this big Conservative success story”, he added on Twitter.

The process of privatising the bank was begun in March by the then business secretary Sajid Javid. He said a “golden share” would be created which would enable the holder – a company formed specially by the Government – to reject any changes to the banks’ green ethos.

However, sources close to the GIB told the Times the Government will not be able prevent Macquarie from selling off parts of the bank’s portfolio once the deal is complete.

Neither Macquarie nor the GIB were willing to comment on the sale, although Macquarie said in a statement it has “a substantial and longstanding commitment to the renewable energy and clean technology sectors”. A spokesman for BEIS said: “This is a commercially sensitive process and therefore it is inappropriate for us to comment while the process is ongoing.”

Since its creation in November 2012, the GIB has invested £2.7bn on more than 80 green infrastructure projects around the UK. The bank is expected to be sold to Macquarie for around £2bn.

Last month Scotland’s Economy Secretary Keith Brown wrote to the UK Government to raise concerns that the privatisation of the bank had become “more of a fragmentation or asset stripping process”. He added: “This is deeply troubling considering the vital role that the bank serves in our green economy.”

Tom Grimwood

This article first appeared in edie’s sister title, Utility Week

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