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    Uniper Eyes French Sale to EPH


It wants to offload gas- and coal-fired plants. The gas plants may later be onsold.

by: Mark Smedley

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Natural Gas & LNG News, Europe, Gas to Power, Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions, News By Country, Czech Republic, Germany

Uniper Eyes French Sale to EPH

German energy supplier Uniper has received a unilateral binding offer from Czech privately-owned utility EPH for its French assets. Neither indicated its value.

Uniper said December 22 it agreed to enter into exclusive negotiations with EPH for the sale of all Uniper activities and assets of Uniper in France, but that first a mandatory consultation with employees in January must take place. In August, Uniper said a strategic review of its French assets included their possible divestment. 

Uniper France's portfolio includes: two gas-fired power plants with around 400 MW each in Saint-Avold (Lorraine); two hard coal plants, each with around 600 MW, located in Saint-Avold and Gardanne (Provence); a 150-MW biomass power plant in Gardanne in Provence; plus wind and solar power plants with a combined capacity of around 100 MW.

EPH vice-chairman Jan Springl said December 24 that, if successful, its aim would be to on-sell the two gas-fired plants to Total, which it said would be uneconomic by themselves if the coal-fired plants closed: "We have established a partnership with Total which may lead to a transfer of the two gas-fired power plants which are currently operated by Uniper. We sincerely believe that their competitiveness and strategic value would be increased in the larger gas-fired portfolio of Total."

Prague-based EPH has infrastructure and power generation assets in seven EU countries: Germany, Italy, UK, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. It buys mature or coal-fired assets at low price, then modernises and/or restructures the businesses.

French president Emmanuel Macron last month promised to close the country's coal plants by the end of 2021, but made no compensation offer for their closure, upsetting Uniper which November 28 called for "specific proposals for a structural resolution of the issue with the affected companies." Instead it may have chosen to exit a fraught situation.

Uniper France supplies gas and power to industrial and commercial customers; its net income in 2017 was a low single-digit million euro amount. In Uniper's 9M results, it urged the French government not to close its coal-fired plants 'prematurely' and disclosed it made a €91mn ($104mn) impairment in 3Q2018 against its Gardanne coal-fired plant unit.