EPH sees RWE's Net4Gas sale tender concluded in Q1-paper
BRATISLAVA Dec 18 (Reuters) - Czech energy group EPH, a leading bidder for RWE's Czech gas transmission system operator Net4Gas, expects a tender winner to be picked in the first quarter, its chairman was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Germany's RWE plans to sell up to 7 billion euros ($9.2 billion) in assets by the end of 2013 in a bid to keep its credit rating, lower debt after years of pricey acquisitions and increase investments following Germany's decision to exit nuclear power.
Net4Gas, which sources have said could fetch between 1.4 billion euros and 2 billion euros, is the biggest item on RWE's list and has proven difficult to sell.
Sources familiar with the matter said this month the deadline for final bids had been pushed back to February from November.
"The tender is ongoing and will likely be decided in the first quarter of 2013. We think that we have good chances to get Net4Gas. When you look at bidders, only EPH has clear strategic interest," EPH chairman Daniel Kretinsky was quoted as saying in an interview with Slovak newspaper Hospodarske Noviny.
Kretinsky said EPH, which last week concluded the acquisition of 49 percent stake in Slovak gas utility SPP for an estimated 2.5 billion euros, should be able to submit the highest bid for Net4Gas.
EPH and privately-held Czech oil and gas group KKCG have both said they are among the bidders for Net4Gas and are seen as the most likely to succeed.
($1 = 0.7598 euros) (Reporting by Martin Santa; Editing by Mark Potter)