MILAN, June 23 (Reuters) - At least five energy and infrastructure groups are expected to place non-binding offers for the Italian assets of Spain's Gas Natural, two sources familiar with the matter said on Friday, adding foreign funds were also looking at the deal.
Gas Natural hired Rothschild at the beginning of this year to find buyers for its Italian activities.
The Spanish company, which has been in Italy since 2002, runs more than 7,000 km of regulated gas distribution pipelines, mainly in the south, alongside a retail business that sells gas and power to over 420,000 families and 17,000 companies.
"There are offers coming from at least five-six groups, excluding funds," a source close to the matter told Reuters.
Italy's biggest gas distributor Italgas recently said it was interested in the distribution assets of Gas Natural. Infrastructure fund F2i, which controls 2i Rete Gas, is also looking at the same assets, two sources said.
According to the sources, France's Edison and Engie are looking at the retail business of the Spanish group, but Italy's top utility Enel will not file a bid.
An offer is also expected by regional utility A2A, which said recently it would bid for some assets.
Foreign funds are looking at the whole package, which includes a project to build a liquefied natural gas terminal and other minor assets, sources said.
Edison, F2i, Engie and A2A declined to comment.
A deadline to table non-binding offers expires on Friday and Gas Natural and Rothschild are expected to short list some of the bidders before asking for binding offers in September. (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Giancarlo Navach, writing by Francesca Landini; editing by Agnieszka Flak)