EWE stake sale to attract interest from Macquarie, Shell, say sources: Reuters

German utility EWE [LANDWE.UL] will put a $1.9 billion minority stake on the block later this year, a sale that is expected to draw interest from infrastructure investors, pension funds and oil majors, two people familiar with the matter said.

EWE has hired Goldman Sachs (GS.N) to find a buyer for the 26 percent stake, the people said, adding Macquarie (MQG.AX), Shell (RDSa.L) and Allianz Capital Partners (ACP) (ALVG.DE) were among potential buyers.

Dutch pension fund PGGM could also be interested, one of the people said, adding an official sales process had not yet started.

EWE’s stake could be worth between 1.5 billion and 2 billion euros ($1.9 billion and $2.5 billion), based on its 2016 operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), the people said.

“It’s a lot of money for relatively little influence so I would expect pension and infrastructure funds to turn up,” one of the people said.

EWE’s new Chief Executive Stefan Dohler, who took the job last month after a stint as finance chief at Swedish peer Vattenfall [VATN.UL], was expected to move fast and could strike a deal as early as this year, the people said.

They also said EWE was planning to sell its distribution business in Turkey, where it has about 923,000 natural gas customers but was hit by a weakening of the Turkish lira TRY=.

EWE, among Germany’s largest energy groups with annual sales of 7.6 billion euros, has a unique set-up within the country’s power sector, as it runs a utility business and telecommunications operations.

Mostly owned by an alliance of 21 cities and districts in northern Germany, EWE also operates regulated power networks, which have been a magnet for infrastructure investors in times of low interest rates due to their guaranteed returns.

It lost larger rival EnBW (EBKG.DE) as a key shareholder in 2015, when it agreed to gradually take back EnBW’s 26 percent stake in exchange for a majority in gas company VNG [VNG.UL]. EnBW retains a 6 percent stake, which it will divest fully by the end of 2019.

EWE has said it wants to find a new strategic partner by 2019 year to raise fresh funds for growth investments, including build glass-fiber networks with Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE).

“EWE is currently dealing with the stake previously held by EnBW, as well as the situation of EWE’s subsidiaries in Turkey,” a spokesman for the group said in e-mailed remarks, declining to comment further.

Macquarie, Shell, PGGM and ACP, the alternative asset management arm of insurer Allianz, all declined to comment. Goldman Sachs was not immediately available for comment.

In a sign of ongoing high demand for infrastructure assets, ACP is expected to announce shortly a deal to take a 26.2 percent stake in Neuconnect, a subsea power cable worth about 1 billion euros connecting Germany and Britain, sources said.