The electricity distribution unit of United Utilities, which provides electricity to around 2.2 million consumers in northwest England, could be acquired by Hong Kong mogul Li Ka-shing, The Telegraph has reported.

According to the publication, Mr Ka-shing, who already owns a number of UK businesses through his Hong Kong-based infrastructure firm Hutchison Whampoa, is preparing to make an offer of GBP1.5 billion ($3 billion) for the electricity distribution unit, formerly known as Norweb.

Mr Ka-shing is believed to be among a number of potential buyers that are currently organizing first-round bids for the business unit, which United Utilities announced that it was planning to sell in June 2007, The Telegraph revealed.

According to the publication, other parties hoping to acquire the unit are believed to include US utility MidAmer-ican, Australian financial group Macquarie and the infrastructure funds of JP Morgan and UBS.

On announcing its plans to divest the business, United Utilities said that it intends to maintain its operating contract for the unit. According to The Telegraph, this may dissuade the firm’s UK counterparts, such as Scottish and Southern Energy, from bidding for the business.