A group led by Mitsubishi beat out other bidders including Shell in reaching a €4.1 billion ($4.5 billion) deal to buy Dutch energy company Eneco, which the Japanese conglomerate intends to make the centerpiece of its growth in the European energy market.
The winning consortium includes Mitsubishi, with an 80 percent stake, and Japanese utility Chubu, with the remaining 20 percent.
Owned by several dozen Dutch municipalities, Eneco is the second largest electricity supplier in the Netherlands and is also active in Germany and Belgium. The company operates about 2 gigawatts of wind capacity, roughly a quarter of it offshore, alongside nearly 300 megawatts of solar.
Mitsubishi is already a substantial investor in Europe's electricity market, including a 20 percent stake in U.K. electricity supplier OVO. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, part of the Mitsubishi Group, is co-owner of offshore wind turbine manufacturer MHI Vestas.
Mitsubishi plans to transfer 400 megawatts of offshore wind assets to Eneco once the all-cash acquisition goes through.
Eneco offers "a platform to further grow in the European market, in which we intend to have a leading position in the energy transition," Takehiko Kakiuchi, CEO of Mitsubishi Corporation, said in a press statement.
Offshore wind is at the center of an existing collaboration between Eneco and Mitsubishi dating back to 2012. The two companies have jointly invested in a trio of offshore wind farms, all of them using MHI Vestas turbines, as well as in a 48-megawatt battery in Germany.
In a presentation used to introduce the consortium that was shared with GTM, Chubu and Mitsubishi pointed to five growth areas they will focus on with Eneco, including growing their renewable energy asset base and expanding the utility business to new territories.
The financial backing of Mitsubishi and Chubu will bolster Eneco's credit rating, making it more competitive in future offshore wind auctions, the companies said.
The next two years will see offshore wind auctions in the Netherlands, the U.K., Denmark, Belgium, France and Germany, with a total capacity of up to 9.5 gigawatts on offer. Poland is also preparing to pursue an 8-gigawatt offshore wind target by 2040.
The final shortlist of bidders for Eneco reportedly included private equity firm KKR and a joint bid from Shell and the Dutch pension fund PGGM.
Shell said its ambitions for growth in the power sector remain unchanged by the loss of the deal.
"We respect this outcome but are disappointed," said Maarten Wetselaar, director of Shell's integrated gas and new energies units. “We believe that together with PGGM we made a competitive bid for Eneco, including an attractive package of non-financial terms and long-term growth plans."
Eneco's current CEO, Ruud Sondag, will resign when the deal is finalized, to be replaced by an as-yet-unnamed Dutch CEO.