CEZ joins list of suitors for EDF’s Polish assets

By bne IntelliNews January 20, 2016

Czech power group CEZ is interested in acquisitions in Poland, including assets set to be put up for sale by French power firm EDF, the CEO of the state-controlled company's local unit told journalists on January 20.

EDF is reportedly planning to sell its power and heat generation assets in Poland, in line with a strategy to divest coal assets and move into renewables and nuclear. That's in line with moves by several large Western European utilities. However, in Central Europe, the largest players are eager to get their hands on such assets.

CEZ joins its common competitior, Czech based, Slovak-owned Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding (EPH), as a potential suitor for EDF’s Polish assets. The Polish press has speculated that EPH is the leading candidate to pull off the transaction. Polish companies PGNiG Termika, PGE, as well as Enea, are also interested, reports claim.

“Heat power is one of the sectors we want to develop in Poland," CEZ Polska CEO Bohdana Horackova told PAP. "EDF’s assets in Poland are interesting and we will be interested in them, but everything will depend on [the sale’s] conditions.”

The French power firm's Polish assets could be worth up to PLN2bn (€460mn), Puls Biznesu reports. The company holds several combined heat and power (CHP) plants across in the country, as well as a power plant in the southern town of Rybnik.

The French company is reportedly ready to sell its Polish assets one by one if a portfolio deal proves impossible. Either way, it will signal a shake up of the country's power market; EDF controls 10% of the electricity market and 15% of the CHP segment.

EDF needs cash to help power its nuclear plant project in the UK. It is also following other Western European utilities in divesting from coal assets, as the risks of environmentally unfriendly power plants grow under national and EU regulations.

A purchase would fit CEZ’s revitalised plans to expand in its home region. Despite a disasterous expansion programme across CEE ahead of the crisis, the company has been hunting acquisitions in neighbouring countries since it scrapped a €11bn tender to expand one of its nuclear power plants in April 2014.

However, CEZ has found itself lagging EPH, which is owned by oligarchs from closely-held financial group J&T and has been feverishly buying up coal-based assets in Central Europe as well as Western European countries including Germany, Italy and the UK. Poland remains a significant hole in the portfolio of both companies.

CEZ pulled out of the race for Enel's majority stake in Slovak power producer Slovenske Elektrarne (SE) when Bratislava said it wanted to take control. EPH struck a deal with the Italian utility and Slovak state late last year. CEZ and EPH are also competitors for buying the German assets of Sweden’s Vattenfall. CEZ filed a non-binding bid in December.

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