June 3, 2020 / 1:54 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Hungary's MVM joins bidding for E.ON's Czech Innogy asset sale

(Updates with more bidders)

By Krisztina Than and Jason Hovet

BUDAPEST/PRAGUE, June 3 (Reuters) - Hungary’s state-owned energy group MVM has submitted a final bid for E.ON’s Czech Innogy retail operations as it seeks to expand in central Europe, Chairman and CEO Gyorgy Kobor told Reuters.

MVM joins a list of Czech players in the sale, which has been agreed with the European Union to secure anti-trust clearance of German utility E.ON’s purchase of Innogy’s network and retail assets.

In the Czech Republic, Innogy has nearly 1.6 million gas and electricity customers.

Bidding alongside MVM, are Czech energy and investment groups EPH, KKCG and Sev.en Energy, sources said. PRE, 70% owned by German utility EnBW, did not bid, another source said.

It was unclear whether investment group PPF was among the final bidders. It was invited to submit an offer, Reuters reported in March. PPF had no immediate comment.

Czech energy giant CEZ did not bid, a spokesman said. A Czech newspaper reported in May that MVM could team up with the biggest Czech energy group CEZ for a bid and split gas and electricity customers.

MVM’s Kobor said the company was bidding alone.

“We see ourselves as a prospective buyer for the entire retail segment, and we submitted our bid with this in mind as expansion and the strengthening of market positions are key for us,” he said.

E.ON declined to comment on bids, which sources said were due last Friday.

E.ON had hoped to fetch more than six times core earnings, a valuation of 800 million to 900 million euros ($895.76-to-$1 billion), including debt, a source, asking not to be named, said in March.

The coronavirus outbreak may have an impact on valuations.

MVM, which includes Hungary’s nuclear power plant, gas-fired and solar power generation capacities, the Hungarian grid operator and involvement in the gas market, declined to comment on its bid value.

$1 = 0.8931 euros Reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest, Jason Hovet and Jan Lopatka in Prague, Tom Kaeckenhoff in Duesseldorf, and Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt; editing by Jason Neely

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