The proposed sale of Electricity North West continues to keep the City’s rumour mills turning over. The northwest regional network operator has been put on the block by its owners, US investment bank JP Morgan and Australian institutional investor Colonial First State.

Over the past couple of weeks, a variety of suitors have been identified in the press.

They include the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, already a well-known face in the sector thanks to his ownership of UK Power Networks, Northern Gas Networks, Wales & West Utilities and Northumbrian Water. More potentially sensitive was a Sunday Times’ story that mainland Chinese grid companies are also interested

Not so long ago, the UK government adopted a distinctly laisser faire approach to the issue of Chinese ownership, particularly under David Cameron, but since then Theresa May, who spent five years immersed in security issues as home secretary, has taken a much dimmer view of states perceived as potentially hostile.

The more cautious approach towards foreign ownership was fleshed out in a white paper on foreign takeovers issued by Greg Clark, secretary of state for business.

This proposed tougher rules on mergers and acquisitions of key national infrastructure assets.

The white paper has yet to be turned into legislation. However, its thinking can expect to be reflected if mainland Chinese entities win the race to land Electricity North West.

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