Greenpeace Says Can Find Cash to Buy Vattenfall Coal Assets

  • Environmental group wants to shut power plants in Germany
  • Vattenfall will consider all serious bids for plants, mines

Greenpeace is exploring funding options to buy Vattenfall AB’s lignite operations in Germany as it seeks to shut the power plants and prevent others from starting new coal mines.

The environmental group wants to start discussions with Vattenfall after the Swedish state-owned utility put the assets up for sale, Annika Jacobson, head of Greenpeace in Sweden, said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday.

Vattenfall’s plants and mines, with a capacity of more than 8,000 megawatts combined, are worth 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) to 3 billion euros, according to Rodger Rinke, an analyst at Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg. The company wrote down the value of the business by 15.2 billion kronor ($1.8 billion) on July 21, citing the slump in power prices to the lowest level in more than a decade.

“There are many ways to finance such an acquisition and we are looking at those,” Jacobson said. Greenpeace “may also look at the possibility of buying strategic parts,” she said.

Juha Aromaa, a Greenpeace spokesman, said the final price may be affected by climate policies focused on phasing out coal. The organization could finance a potential acquisition with donor money, crowd-funding and other sources of financing, he said.

“Mostly, we would believe it would be our supporters who would be interested in such an acquisition to save the climate,” he said.

Buying Process

The process of finding a buyer will be “open,” Sabine Froning, a spokeswoman for Vattenfall, said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. “All serious bids are welcome.”

Greenpeace may want to force a binding statement of the German government on the remaining life of the country’s lignite plants, Guido Hoymann, an analyst at B. Metzler Seel Sohn & Co. KGaA, said by phone from Frankfurt.

“Only when that’s clear, can a value be seriously determined, and then there will possibly be a buyer willing to pay this value,” he said.

The Nordic region’s largest utility is trying to adjust its portfolio of power plants to focus on renewable energy. All its lignite generation and mining assets in Germany will be included in the sale, such as the Boxberg, Jaenschwalde and Schwarze Pumpe power plants and corresponding mines.

The company, under pressure from the Swedish government to exit coal-fired power generation in Germany, is facing sliding electricity prices in the Nordic region as well as several billions of kronor of writedowns related to its operations in countries from the Netherlands to Germany.

“Vattenfall and the Swedish government must take their responsibility also for emissions outside Sweden’s borders,” Jacobson at Greenpeace said. “If they don’t, we must handle the matter. The brown coal must stay in the ground.”

Greenpeace now wants to “start serious discussions” with Vattenfall to get a better picture of the potential price, Aromaa said.

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