• Repsol, Criteria Caixa may sell about 20% of Spanish utility
  • KKR and another bidder also said to show interest in holding

Global Infrastructure Partners is in preliminary discussions to acquire a stake in Spain’s Gas Natural SDG SA, according to people familiar with the matter.

Shareholders Repsol SA and Criteria Caixa SA are exploring possibilities for their stakes in Gas Natural with investors, the companies said in regulatory filings Thursday, without identifying bidders. The companies are in talks to sell about 10 percent of Gas Natural’s shares each.

The sale could value the 20 percent stake at about 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion), the people said, asking not to be named because the deliberations are private. No final decisions have been made and the talks could still fall apart, they said. KKR & Co. and one other potential suitor are also weighing bids, the people said.

Gas Natural shares rose 3.1 percent to close at 19.07 euros in Madrid, the biggest gain in almost two months. Repsol advanced 1.2 percent and CaixaBank SA was little changed.

Representatives for GIP, Criteria Caixa, Repsol, Gas Natural and KKR declined to comment.

Low Prices

Criteria Caixa owns about 34 percent of Gas Natural while Repsol owns about 30 percent, according to the company’s website. Gas Natural, based in Barcelona, has a market valuation of about $21 billion.

A sale to GIP or another bidder is “great news” for Gas Natural because it means the company’s shares won’t be “dumped straight onto the market,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Elchin Mammadov said. At 4 billion euros, such a low premium probably reflects low gas prices and oversupply in the liquid natural gas market, he said.

Madrid-based Repsol has joined peers in slashing spending and selling assets to adapt to the rout in crude prices, offloading its stake in a British wind farm, firing staff around the world and announcing a reduction in its dividend.

GIP, which manages about $33 billion for its investors, is an independent infrastructure fund that invests in energy, transport, waste and water assets around the globe. The firm’s portfolio includes investments in the clean-energy assets of Spain’s Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA, according to its website. GIP and its partners also recently sold London City Airport.

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