UtiliCorp to control NZ utility

US company UtiliCorp United Inc. is to more than double its stake in Power New Zealand Ltd., giving it a majority and controlling interest in the New Zealand electric utility. The deal has been valued at over $200m.

UtiliCorp will buy shares from Mercury Energy Ltd. and WEL Energy Group Ltd. to increase its stake in Power New Zealand from 37.5 per cent to 78.6 per cent. The company`s offer price of $3.31 per share values Mercury`s 50m shares at $170m and WEL`s 12m shares at $40.5m.

As part of the deal, UtiliCorp`s affiliate in New Zealand will sell its 39.7 per cent stake in WEL Energy Group to the WEL Energy Trust for $35.7m.

The remaining shares in Power New Zealand are held by the Power New Zealand Shareholder Society (10.7 per cent), the public (nine per cent) and the employee share ownership plan (1.7 per cent).