Green Investment Bank to be sold off in £2.3bn deal

The government has agreed a £2.3bn sale of the Green Investment Bank to the Australian bank Macquarie, reports The Guardian.

The privatisation of the bank was expected in January but signoff was delayed in the face of stiff political opposition and wrangling over the final price.

Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election and political concerns that the deadlock could become a campaign issue may have broken the stalemate.

An official announcement is expected to be made by Nick Hurd, the climate minister, on Thursday, the Guardian understands.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green party have criticised the sale, questioning Macquarie’s track record and commitment to green energy. Former ministers including Lord Barker and Vince Cable also warned the taxpayer risks being shortchanged by the sale because some of its assets will be worth far more later.

But Hurd will argue that the sale achieves the government’s two objectives of maximising value for the taxpayer and maintaining the bank’s green mission.

Macquarie has put up £1.7bn to buy the bank, with a further £600m supplied in part by the UK-based Universities Superannuation Scheme, a pension scheme for university professors.

The road to completing the sale to the Australian bank was cleared when a judicial review brought by Sustainable Development Capital (SDCL) – a rival bidder for the bank – was refused by the high court earlier this month.

Under the deal reached, the bank will retain both its Edinburgh and London offices. It is expected the government will still hold £140m of the bank’s assets, which the institution will continue to manage until they can be sold for the best return to the public purse.

The Green Investment Bank has stakes – either directly or via funds managed by third parties – in 85 projects that vary from an energy efficient street lighting project in Barking and Dagenham and windfarm in Dumfries and Galloway, to a biomass plant at Port Talbot and an energy-from-waste plant in Belfast.

The bank also manages the world’s first offshore wind fund, which is comprised private capital from a sovereign wealth fund, European institutional investors and a number of UK pension funds. It was launched in 2012 with £1.5bn of taxpayer money under the coalition.

Environmental groups urged Macquarie to stay true to the bank’s original purpose.

Karen Ellis, chief adviser on economics and development at WWF-UK, said: “Macquarie must guarantee that the green mission of the bank is protected and maintained and that it will provide substantial new capital for green investments.

“Numerous market failures are constraining the availability of finance for green investment, so to ensure the Green Investment Bank continues to deliver on its mandate, it should invest in novel green projects, which are less likely to be funded privately; it needs to focus on crowding in additional finance by reducing the barriers to investment.”