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AlintaGas lights up

SEVEN years of work have culminated with WA’s gas utility AlintaGas listing on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Its listing ceremony drew what some observers described as the biggest turn out for a Perth float for a long time.

Within two minutes of the utility floating at $2.75, more than five million trades were recorded.

The company began trading with a share register of 116,000 individual shareholders, 95 per cent from WA.

AlintaGas chairman Tony Howarth said the substantial interest in the float showed how well the company had grown since its 1995 split from the State Energy Commission.

AlintaGas CEO Phil Harvey said the corporatisation of the utility began with the Carnegie Committee report in 1993 that recommended the break up of the State Energy Commission of WA, which created AlintaGas and Western Power, in 1995.

“There were several occasions when I wondered if we would ever make it to listing,” Mr Harvey said.

“Now I’m looking forward to working in the private sector.”

So what does the future hold for the newly privatised utility that delivers natural gas to 58 per cent of WA homes through its 10,500 kilometres of pipelines?

It supplies natural gas to 420,000 industrial, commercial and residential customers in Perth, Bunbury, Mandurah, Busselton, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie.

AlintaGas also supplies liquefied petroleum gas to Albany and The Vines.

An extension of the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline as far east as Esperance could open more markets for the utility.

There is also potential for AlintaGas to move into WA’s electricity market.

Further deregulation is expected in July.

AlintaGas cornerstone investor the United Energy-Utilicorp consortium is a major player in the eastern states electricity market.

The utility’s monopoly on residential natural gas sales is protected until July 1, 2002.

WA Energy Minister Colin Barnett said the total sale proceeds of AlintaGas were expected to bring in $971.4 million.

After the repayment of $320 million of Gas Corporation debt, the Government will net $615.5 million.

The cornerstone 45 per cent of AlintaGas was sold to the United Energy-Utilicorp consortium for $319.5 million.

Mr Barnett said gas was the engine room of WA’s economic development with the State holding about 80 per cent of Australia’s gas reserves.

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