Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (CKI) is expected to make a bid for New Zealand's UnitedNetworks, the country's largest electricity distributor. Analysts said the Li Ka-shing infrastructure arm was likely to join forces with 39 per cent-owned stablemate Hongkong Electric Holdings in an attempt to break into the New Zealand market. UnitedNetworks is the 10th largest company in New Zealand with a market capitalisation of NZ$1.43 billion (HK$5.19 billion) and net assets of NZ$2.3 billion. UnitedNetworks distributes electricity to about 30 per cent of the country's electricity consumers, natural gas to more than 50 per cent of the country's gas consumers, and owns and manages broadband communications networks in the Auckland and Wellington central business districts. The company's net profit in the first half of the year jumped 20 per cent year on year to NZ$64.2 million. UnitedNetworks chief executive Dan Warnock told Business Post yesterday: 'Controlling shareholder [US energy firm] Aquila wants to exit the company and the whole company is up for sale. The deadline for submitting tenders is Monday. And we may have a decision as soon as Tuesday.' He said about 20 companies, including international and domestic firms, had expressed interest in UnitedNetworks but declined to reveal their identities. Mr Warnock said Aquila wanted a quick sale of UnitedNetworks to boost its balance sheet. Analysts widely believe the two Cheung Kong group companies will throw in bids as part of their globalisation plans. In July, the pair won their bid for CitiPower, a power distributor in Victoria, Australia, for A$1.55 billion (about HK$6.55 billion). UBS Warburg analyst Alice Hui Suk-fong said she believed CKI and Hongkong Electric would again form a 50:50 alliance to bid for UnitedNetworks. 'The alliance will effectively give Cheung Kong group 100 per cent ownership in UnitedNetworks while their balance sheets are not required to reveal UnitedNetworks' figures,' she said. Bill Mok Kwai-pui, vice-president of ING Financial Markets equity research, said: 'CKI has embarked on a globalisation trail. New Zealand may be a market where the company can achieve its high-teen internal rate of return.'