November 27, 2012 11:55 AM ET
By Abby Gruen
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Spanish energy giant Iberdrola SA, faced with continuing fallout from the European sovereign debt crisis, is retrenching to preserve its financial flexibility. As it completes projects on its books, it is not planning new renewables investments in the U.S. Instead, it is refocusing its efforts on its network, or distribution, business.
The Vizcaya, Spain-based global energy conglomerate is planning on divesting itself of €2 billion in noncore assets, with an additional €3 billion, if needed, but it is not planning on selling any of its 5,284 MW of renewables properties in the U.S., which is 31% of its portfolio, executives said during the company’s presentation at the recent Edison Electric Institute Financial Conference.
“We are committed to owning renewable assets in the U.S. and will sell assets in Europe,” Ignacio Cuenca, director of investor relations at Iberdrola, told SNL Energy at the conference.
Wall Street dealmakers have been closely watching Iberdrola, whose ratings have slid to Baa1/BBB+ in parallel with Spain’s deteriorating sovereign debt ratings, to see whether, like its Portuguese counterpart, EDP – Energias de Portugal SA, it will begin selling wind projects in the U.S.
EDP recently sold minority stakes in a number of wind farms to China Three Gorges Corp., or CTG, after its parent company’s 21.35% ownership was auctioned by Portugal to CTG. Iberdrola USA Inc. previously said it was exploring the sale of some projects in June.
“I don’t know if we will sell anything in the U.S., but definitely not in pieces,” Cuenca said, adding that the company would “sell one full site.”
Reflecting the corporate shift toward networks, Iberdrola USA created a new holding company in 2012, called Iberdrola USA Networks, upstream from its utilities, and on an even footing with its renewables holding company,Iberdrola Renewables LLC.
“For us, unfortunately the renewables business in the U.S. is stopped. None of our CapEx is related to U.S. activities,” Cuenca said. He said the loss of the production tax credit, combined with low-priced shale gas, means no one can sign power purchase agreements. “From our point of view it’s a very, very difficult situation.”