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China State Grid to invest more in European utilities if price right

METERINGChina.com -- China is ready to invest further in European utilities if it finds the right opportunity and is happy about its first investments in Portuguese utilities, a Chinese official said.

The State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) bought a 25 per cent stake in Portugal’s power grid operator REN in February last year.

The utility China Three Gorges owns a 21 per cent stake in Energias de Portugal (EDP) as well as a 49 per cent stake in the Portuguese unit of EDP’s wind energy arm EDP Renovaveis.

“If the price is right, we can look at other opportunities. It is a possibility,” SGCC executive vice-president Zheng Baosen said through an interpreter on the sidelines of the Eurelectric utilities industry conference.

Zheng added that SGCC has set up a representative office in Frankfurt, it considered its first investment in Portugal “very meaningful” and that the return on its investment is sustainable.

He did not indicate where precisely that SGCC – China’s dominant power grid distributor – might invest further.

SGCC president Liu Zhenya said in November his company planned to expand its overseas assets to US$30 billion to US$50 billion by , from the current US$8 billion.

China’s cash-rich state power groups have been scooping up overseas assets in recent years, with State Grid – the world’s largest state utility – establishing a presence in the Philippines, Brazil and Portugal.

German utility E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen, the incoming president of EU utilities trade group Eurelectric, said that Chinese investments made sense as European utilities are undervalued.

“You have an undervalued asset, and someone picks it up understanding that in the long term this asset will grow in value because it is needed. I think that is a smart investment,” Teyssen told Reuters.

He said the Chinese could not only bring fresh capital but also technology, as China’s grid operators are developing technologies not currently available in Europe, such as super high-voltage transmission lines.

“Chinese utilities are among the most innovative utilities in the world,” he said.

Teyssen saw no strategic barriers to a stronger Chinese presence in Europe.

“The Chinese are welcome partners,” he said.