July 4, 2019 / 11:02 AM / 18 days ago

Uniper gets French approval for power assets sale to Kretinsky's EPH

PARIS (Reuters) - German energy group Uniper (UN01.DE) said it had signed agreements to sell its power generation and distribution businesses in France to Central European energy group EPH after receiving approval from the French government.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of German energy utility company Uniper SE is pictured in the company's headquarter in Duesseldorf, Germany, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen/File Photo

Uniper and EPH, majority owned by Czech billionaire investor Daniel Kretinsky, entered exclusive negotiations for the deal in December, and they had been waiting for the French government’s clearance following approval from EU competition authorities in May.

The firms did not disclose the value of the deal.

The assets includes two gas-fired power plants with a total capacity of 828 megawatts (MW), two coal power generation units with an installed capacity of 1,200 MW, a 150 MW biomass power plant and 100 MW of wind and solar generation capacity.

French energy group Total (TOTF.PA) has entered into a separate agreement with EPH to acquire the two gas-fired plants from Jan. 1, 2020.

The agreement comes as France moves ahead with plans to phase out coal power generation by 2022 - a decision which would affect the Uniper coal power plant.

French lawmakers passed a climate and energy bill last week, which gave the government the legal backing to force the remaining four coal power plants in France to close by 2022 by imposing restrictive emissions targets on them.

A French energy ministry official told journalists last week that the companies were aware of the government’s plan to phase out coal generation well before the deal was announced.

“The decision by the French government to close our two coal-fired power plants long before the end of their technical operating lives would have affected our entire business. We therefore had to act entrepreneurially,” Eckhardt Rümmler, Uniper’s Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement.

Daniel Kretinsky also owns a stake in French newspaper Le Monde.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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