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Power privatisation bidders complete payments

27 August 2013, 11:04

Abuja - Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan said on Monday that bidders for state electricity assets had completed payments, clearing a major hurdle in a privatisation scheme meant to end the country's chronic power shortages.

Bidders had until last Thursday to pay the remaining three-quarters of their bids to meet the deadline. Some did, but complications such as labour issues had been holding others up.

Nigeria's state power company produces only a few hours of electricity a day, forcing those who can afford it to rely on expensive diesel generators that drain billions of dollars from the economy.

It is being broken up into 11 generation companies and six distribution companies, all being sold separately to private consortia, for a total of around $2.5 billion.

Most bids were led by Nigerian oligarchs or local firms like Forte Oil but many have recognised technical partners like Siemens and Manila Electric.

The sale of one generation and one distribution company have been delayed due to issues during the bidding process but the remaining 15 have now been paid for.

"Finally, everyone has paid," Jonathan said in comments attributed to him in a presidency statement. "In the shortest possible time, our power sector will take on a much more positive life of its own for the benefit of all Nigerians."

He added that: "We have challenges in the sector but we are constantly working to overcome them."

Those challenges include disruptive unions opposed to the privatisation, a lack of investment in the still state-owned transmission grid network and an inadequate supply of gas.

Although Nigeria owns the world's ninth largest gas reserves, much of it is flared off or left underground. The little that is harnessed is sometimes disrupted by oil thieves.

Nigeria is borrowing a total of $1.6 billion from the World Bank, Chinese Exim Bank, the African Development Bank and through a Eurobond to upgrade the creaking transmission network that connects power plants to distributing sub-stations.

Nigeria's daily electricity generation has fallen by around 40 percent from its peak output last December, largely because of interruptions to the gas supply.

Boosting power output through privatisation is seen as key to unlocking the potential of Africa's second-biggest economy. Jonathan pledged to do it before the last elections, so any successes are likely to form a key part of his 2015 presidential bid, should he decide to run again.

- Reuters


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