EDF Plans To Launch UK Grid Sale Next Month

AMSTERDAM/LONDON6 (Reuters) – French utility EDF (EDF.PA) has set an indicative timetable in its sale of Britain’s biggest electricity distribution network as industry and financial parties begin to form consortia, sources said.

EDF has sent a teaser out to potential bidders for its three distributor network operators (DNOs) whose regulated asset value (RAV) now stands close to 4 billion pounds ($6.7 billion), several sources familiar with the process said.

The company has privately communicated a draft timeline that calls for the sale to be launched in early December, after British regulator Ofgem determines the allowed returns of the DNOs, three of the sources said.

The company then plans to seek first-round bids around the middle of January with binding bids due by the end of the first quarter of 2010, two of the sources said.

EDF declined to comment.

The firm has undertaken what banking sources described as a pre-leveraging of the UK operating companies it plans to sell through a 950 million pounds bond issue that priced on Friday. [ID:nL681546]

The bond deal’s covenants provide investors with some protection if future owners were to hike the companies’ debt, sources said. (Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in Amsterdam and Alex Chambers in London) ($1=.5960 Pound)