Macquarie Said Planning to Split, Not Strip U.K Green Bank

  • Australian lender still in talks to buy Green Investment Bank
  • Deal facing political opposition over ‘asset stripping’ claims

U.K. Green Investment Bank Plc, the state lender put up for sale by the government, will be dramatically restructured if it’s sold to Macquarie Group Ltd., according to two people familiar with the matter.

Australian bank Macquarie, seen as one of the most likely buyers, would divide the Green Investment Bank, or GIB, into at least two units, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because discussions are confidential. One or more would manage existing loans while another would work on deals yet to reach financial close, the people said. The bank may also dispose of some assets.

The deal has run into political opposition amid claims by some lawmakers that Macquarie wants to “asset strip” the bank, something the Australian lender denied in a statement Wednesday. The company didn’t comment on whether it would restructure GIB. Nonetheless, the plan to split the bank may lead to questions about Macquarie’s long-term plans to maintain clean-energy lending.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Nick Hurd told lawmakers in Parliament on Wednesday “the government has no interest in selling to an asset stripper” and that it is seeking assurances about future investments from any prospective buyer.

A GIB spokesman declined to comment Thursday.

The GIB, set up by the government in 2012 to speed Britain’s switch from fossil fuel-fired power generation, has lent to projects from wind farms to biogas plants. It was put up for sale last year as part of a drive to raise money from privatization.

Macquarie is considered the lead bidder. A second group is led by Sustainable Development Capital LLP, a London-based investment firm that’s acted as a fund manager for the GIB.

Caroline Lucas, a Green Party lawmaker who opposes the GIB’s privatization and has been a lead critic of the sale to Macquarie, said she wasn’t reassured by the news.

“Even if we were to trust Macquarie’s intentions with regards the Green Investment Bank -- and their track-record remains deeply alarming -- there are serious concerns about the lack of safeguards that will protect the future of the GIB as an enduring funder of the low-carbon economy,” she said in an e-mailed statement.

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