* Three consortia are in the running to buy TIGF
* Total declines to comment (Adds backgroud, detail)
By Benjamin Mallet and Matthieu Protard
PARIS, Jan 10 (Reuters) - French oil company Total wants firm offers for its TIGF gas network and storage business in southwest France by Feb. 4, sources close to the matter told Reuters on Thursday.
The sale of TIGF is part of a plan by Total to shed 15 to 20 billion euros worth of assets by 2014 to help it finance its investments and boost cash flow.
One of the sources said Total would pick one of the bidders to start exclusive negotiations quickly after the deadline. Finalisation of the sale was likely to take several months, however.
Total declined to comment.
Three consortia are in the running to take over the business, which is estimated to be worth around 2.5 billion euros ($3.26 billion).
Belgian gas company Fluxys and French state bank Caisse des Depots (CDC) have teamed up with AXA Private Equity, Credit Agricole’s Predica insurance unit, CNP Assurances and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in one group.
French power group EDF has teamed up with Singapore’s GIC sovereign wealth fund and Italian gas transport group Snam. And Enagas has formed a consortium with Canadian fund Borealis.
Fluxys would have the largest stake among its partners if its group was successful, though it would not have the majority, one of the sources said. GIC would take the largest slice of TIGF if the EDF consortium won, meanwhile.
Large oil and gas firms have been disposing of low-margin transportation, storage, refining and distribution units to focus on their riskier and more lucrative exploration and production, or “upstream”, activities.
Total’s efforts to sell TIGF have attracted the scrutiny of the French government, given TIGF’s public-service role, while unions oppose the sale, arguing that any change of ownership should get government approval. ($1 = 0.7667 euros) (Editing by Christian Plumb and Elaine Hardcastle)