Oil Report

Two groups vie for multi-billion dlr Manila power deal

MANILA, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Only two consortia tabled bids on Wednesday for a multi-billion dollar licence to run the Philippine power grid in what could be the country’s biggest ever privatisation deal.

San Miguel Energy, a unit of Philippine food and drinks giant San Miguel Corp. SMCB.PS, headed up one group and the Philippines' Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp., which has teamed up with State Grid Corp. of China was the other bidder, officials said.

A third consortium headed by Philippine holding firm Metro Pacific Corp MPI.PS did not submit a bid despite pre-qualifying for the auction, officials said.

Manila has been trying since 2003 to privatise the management of the National Transmission Corp. (Transco) to boost state finances and modernise its creaking power sector. Wednesday’s auction was the fifth attempt and the second this year.

Political uncertainty and doubts about the predictability of profits tripped up previous sale efforts but a new tariff system for Transco, in operation since last year, is supposed to make the 25-year licence more lucrative for investors.

The grid, which needs about $850 million over the next five years for upgrades and expansion, was valued at 138 billion pesos ($3.3 billion) in 2006.