Australian energy firm AusNet Services has received a rival bid from natural gas distributor APA Group for A$9.96bn (€6.2bn) after revealing on Monday that it had received a sweetened bid from Brookfield Asset Management.

APA is offering cash and scrip to AusNet shareholders worth A$2.60 per share, compared with Brookfield’s all-cash offer of $2.50 per share.

APA said that it had made an earlier offer on 1 September.

APA’s largest shareholder, the A$90bn UniSuper, owns about 14% of APA, and supports the bid for AusNet.

Speaking to the media, UniSuper’s chief investment officer, John Pearce, said a takeover of the Victorian transmission grid owner would shift APA away from its almost total reliance on gas.

AusNet said the board had concluded that the original APA offer was “inferior in respect of the price, form of consideration, structure and certainty and that it was in the best interests of AusNet shareholders to engage with Brookfield on its proposal”.

Consequently, the company had entered into a confidentiality deed with Brookfield to conduct exclusive due diligence over seven weeks.

However, it said: “AusNet will consider the APA revised indicative proposal and has the ability to engage with APA following completion of the exclusivity period.”

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