The Netherlands’ largest pension funds are not enthusiastic about taking a stake in Dutch sustainable energy company Eneco, which is currently owned by local councils.

When asked by IPE’s sister publication Pensioen Pro, the metal industry schemes PMT and PME indicated that they were not interested in participating in a sale.

Last week, four councils with a 60% majority – Rotterdam, The Hague, Dordrecht, and Leidschendam-Voorburg – decided to divest their stake. The sale is expected to yield between €2bn and €3bn.

Eneco and connected workers’ unions, however, oppose the sale and are trying to influence the decision regarding the eventual buyer. Union CNV explicitly indicated that a “sustainable and solid stakeholder, such as the large Dutch pension funds, would be by far preferable to random foreign owners”.

Eneco itself emphasised that it was at the forefront of sustainability and energy transition due to its public stakeholders, and said that a new owner should also provide stability, have a long time horizon and be a responsible investor.

It also said it wanted the new owner to invest in innovation and have assumptions for returns that match Eneco’s sustainable projects.

Union FNV said a new stakeholder must be Dutch, and reminded that earlier takeovers of domestic energy firms had led to thousands of redundancies, citing the 2009 deals involving Swedish firm Vattenfall’s acquisition of Nuon and German company RWE’s purchase of Essent.

The shareholders committee of Eneco also indicated that the company’s 53 council owners wanted to set sustainability requirements for a new owner.

The €67bn PMT simply said it was not considering taking a stake in Eneco, while its €45bn sister scheme PME explained that it “lacked a mandate for actively searching for such deals”.

ABP said that it would assess a possible share purchase against its usual criteria of risk, return, costs and sustainability.

PGGM, the asset manager for PFZW, for its turn, indicated that it only passively invested in equity, and that it “would assess all interesting opportunities for private equity and infrastructure”.

Its spokesman declined to be specific about Eneco.