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EON Said to Select Macquarie as Buyer of $4 Billion Gas Grid

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EON AG, Germany’s largest utility, selected a group led by Macquarie Group Ltd. to buy a network of natural-gas pipelines in the country, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The sale of Open Grid Europe distribution network may get about 3.1 billion euros ($4 billion), the person said, declining to be named before the agreement is completed. Dow Jones reported earlier today that EON selected a Macquarie-led group that also includes the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and German reinsurer Munich Re as the buyer.

Carsten Thomsen-Bendixen, an EON spokesman, declined to comment when contacted by phone today. Macquarie spokeswoman Karen Smith also declined to comment.

EON is seeking to raise cash through a 15 billion-euro asset-sales program after the Fukushima disaster in Japan prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to call for the permanent halt of all the country’s nuclear reactors by 2022. The first phase of shutdowns cut EON’s earnings by 2.5 billion euros in 2011.

“If the price is confirmed, then that’s good news for EON as the market had floated about 2 billion euros in the past,” Peter Wirtz, an analyst with WestLB AG, said today by phone from Dusseldorf. “Selecting Macquarie makes sense as choosing GDF Suez or Fluxys would mean EON would invite competition into its own backyard.”

CNP Assurances SA Chief Financial Officer Antoine Lissowski today said the French insurer is siding with GDF Suez SA and the IFM Australian Infrastructure Fund in bidding for Open Grid Europe, confirming an earlier report by Les Echos. Fluxys SA, majority owner of the Belgian grid, leads another bidding group, the newspaper said.

Open Grid Europe operates about 12,000 kilometers (7,450 miles) of gas transmission pipes in Germany, according to its website. Funds managed by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets completed the purchase of RWE AG’s German gas grid unit in 2011.

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