Fortis Loses Stake in Belize Company in Government Takeover

Fortis Inc., Canada’s biggest publicly traded utility, lost its ownership interest in a Belize power company after the Belize government seized the assets.

Fortis holds an approximate 70 percent interest in BEL, the main electricity distributor in Belize, the St. John’s, Newfoundland based-company said today in a statement. The stake represents less than 2 percent of the company’s total assets of C$12.9 billion ($13.3 billion) as of March 31, 2011, the company said. A spokeswoman for Fortis did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The action stemmed from a dispute over a requested rate increase in 2008, the government of Belize said in an e-mailed statement. The government took over the company to ensure an uninterrupted supply of electricity, said Joseph Waight, financial secretary of the Belize Ministry of Finance, in a telephone interview.

Fortis received notification of Belize’s asset possession today, the company said. The government of Belize has not served an expropriation order for Fortis’s ownership of Belize Electric Company Ltd., a non-regulated business that operates three hydroelectric plants in the Central American country.

Fortis fell 3 cents to C$32.01 at 4:10 p.m. in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Chediak in San Francisco at mchediak@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net.

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