* Move could cut debt, give Arriva growth capex
* IPO could value unit at 4 bln eur
* Arriva made adj EBITDA of 569 mln eur in 2017 (Adds details on valuation)
FRANKFURT, March 27 (Reuters) - German railway operator Deutsche Bahn said on Wednesday it will explore a sale or public listing of its British unit Arriva, adding this would enable the group to lower its debt pile.
Arriva, which employs 53,000 across Europe, generated sales of 5.44 billion euros ($6.1 billion) last year. Deutsche Bahn said management has been tasked with exploring a sale of up to 100 percent of Arriva to one or several investors, or an initial public offering (IPO).
Deutsche Bahn, which has come under pressure to look for ways to plug a funding gap, said that a sale or listing could help it limit the increase of debt levels and give Arriva financial leeway for growth.
WirtschaftsWoche reported in October that a sale of Arriva could bring in 3.5-4 billion euros ($3.9-4.5 billion), a welcome cash injection for Deutsche Bahn, which has suffered under a 20 billion euro debt mountain.
Arriva, which was bought by Deutsche Bahn in 2010, made adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 569 million euros in 2017, an increase of 44 percent.
This could result in a valuation of as much as 4 billion euros in case of an IPO based on valuation multiples of some of its peers. Britain’s Stagecoach and National Express trade at 4.8 and 7.0 times their respective core earnings. ($1 = 0.8882 euros) (Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Paul Carrel)