Legislation to allow the sale of Bord Gáis Energy reached the second stage in the Dáil yesterday as the deadline for final bids for the State-owned business looms tomorrow.
Three bidders, British group, Centrica, Irish player, Viridian and Malaysian operator, Tanaga, are still in the running to buy the company, which the Government hopes will fetch €1 billion or more.
The deadline for final bids for the utility, which sells electricity and natural gas to consumers and businesses, is up at close of business tomorrow and a deal is scheduled to be agreed by the end of the year.
The sale is the first of a number of assets earmarked for sale in early 2012 by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.
Yesterday, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, reiterated the Government's commitment that a portion of cash raised from the sale of State assets would go towards job creation.
Centrica, which has been regarded as one of likelier buyers since it became clear the Government was going to sell the business, is said to be seeking a partner to take on the wind power portfolio.
It has been selling similar assets that it owns in Britain.
While some reports have pitched the value of the business as high as €1.5 billion, industry sources have suggested that it is more likely to sell for closer to the €1 billion mark, and possibly less than that.
The transmission network, which moves natural gas around the country, and the pipelines that ship the fuel in via Britain, will remain in State hands, as the Government considers these to be strategically important assets.