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Terra Firma Agrees to Sell Phoenix Energy to Hastings Funds

Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd., the private-equity firm run by Guy Hands, agreed to sell its Northern Irish gas distribution company Phoenix Energy Holdings Group to Hastings Funds Management Ltd.

The buyout firm announced the sale in a statement today, without disclosing the price. Hastings, founded in 1994 as one of Australia’s first infrastructure fund managers, agreed to pay about 700 million pounds ($1.06 billion) for Phoenix, a person familiar with the matter said yesterday.

Phoenix was established in 1996 to bring natural gas to Northern Ireland and has about 140,000 domestic and business customers and employs more than 3,000 people, according to the company’s website. Terra Firma invested in Northern Ireland’s largest natural gas distribution and energy services company in 2005, its website shows.

The deal is Terra Firma’s second sale of an asset this year following the initial public offering of German residential landlord Deutsche Annington Immobilien SE on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in July.

“The success of this investment highlights the expertise of Terra Firma in transforming asset-backed businesses in essential industries,” Hands said in today’s statement. “Phoenix is well positioned for future growth, and we are confident that under Hastings’ ownership it will continue to thrive.”

Private-equity firms typically pool money from pension plans and insurance companies and use it to buy companies. They usually charge a management fee of as much as 2 percent and keep 20 percent of the profits from investments.

The pools are largely structured to last a decade with an investment period of five years, after which the private-equity firm will look to raise a new fund. Terra Firma raised 5.4 billion euros ($7.1 billion) for its last private-equity pool in 2007, according to the company’s website.

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