Swiss hydro operators merge; French utility takes stake

Swiss utilities Aare-Tessin AG fur Elektrizitat (Atel) and Energie Ouest Suisse (EOS) have agreed to merge, effective February 1, into Alpiq Holding AG, called the leading Swiss energy services provider with a European orientation.

Additionally, French utility Electricite de France (EDF) is acquiring a 25 percent stake in Alpiq and will transfer to the new company its energy rights from a 50 percent stake in 360-MW Emosson Dam on the French-Swiss border.

The combined company is to have hydropower generation in Switzerland totaling 3,000 MW, plus 765 MW of nuclear capacity. With 10,000 employees and a presence in several European countries, Alpiq is to provide a third of Switzerland’s electricity.

Officials of Atel and EOS signed merger documents in December, calling for EOS to bring its activities and assets into the new company in exchange for shares in Atel Holding Ltd. Atel is simultaneously being renamed Alpiq Holding AG.

EOS will increase its holdings in the new company to about 31 percent from 18.56 percent. A consortium of Swiss utility minority shareholders will hold about 31 percent of Alpiq. Italian utility A2A, the former AEM Mailand, will hold about 5 percent, with the remainder held by several thousand small shareholders.

EDF will provide Alpiq its energy rights from the 50 percent stake in Emosson Dam valued at 720 million Swiss francs (US$645 million) and will pay another 337 million francs (US$301 million) in cash for its 25 percent stake.

Atel and Swiss federal railway SBB are developing 600-MW Nant de Drance pumped-storage project at Finhaut in the Swiss Alps. (HNN 6/5/08) In 2007, Atel’s small hydro developer, Atel Ecopower AB, purchased four small Swiss hydro projects from Ziegler Papier AG. It also planned to invest in the development of small hydropower plants in Switzerland, Norway, and Italy. (HNN 11/5/07)

In 2007, EOS, which generates 85 percent of its electricity from hydropower, signed a 10-year agreement with German utility RWE for a �virtual� exchange of hydroelectric and coal-fired power, effective January 1, 2009. (HNN 8/27/07)

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