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Belgian gas operator interested in Dutch stake
Belgian gas pipeline operator Fluxys may seek to buy a stake in Dutch gas operator Gasunie from the Dutch state next year, the chief executive of the Brussels-based firm said, as it aims to become a hub for gas transport across Europe, reports Reuters. The company previously said it might consider a merger with Gasunie, but the Dutch government’s plan to privatise part of Gasunie could mean it takes a stake instead. Gasunie has also repeatedly made overtures to Fluxys, and the two firms already cooperate on an operational level. “Next year there will probably be a discussion in the Netherlands about a partial privatisation of Gasunie,” chief executive Walter Peeraer told Reuters as part of a series of interviews on the gas market. “This is something that we will probably look at. It could be an opportunity to increase the cooperation between Gasunie and Fluxys on a more structural level.” A tie-up with Gasunie would enable Fluxys to link its pipeline network to Denmark and Russia through the Netherlands and Germany, adding to its existing connection to Italy through collaboration with Snam. The Dutch government said in 2011 that it planned to privatise state power and gas grid operators to raise funds to upgrade their networks, but that process was delayed because of Dutch elections last year. Peeraer said Fluxys would be able to mobilise up to €1.5 billion to spend on acquisitions, including company funds and credit facilities. He said its shareholders were supportive of the expansion plans and also could provide more funds if the right opportunity came around. Fluxys is 77.7%-owned by Belgian municipalities through public holding company Publigas. Canadian pension fund Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec owns 20% and Belgium’s Federal Holding and Investment company just over 2%. Peeraer said his shareholders were ready to support Fluxys in making an acquisition as long as the deal would be profitable, would provide links to its core Belgian market and would give it a controlling interest. “Our three shareholders are ready to follow us in sound investments,” Peeraer said.