Eastern German gas distributor VNG acquires retailer goldgas

Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:14am EDT

* Eastern German gas group diversifies into households

* Buys restructured retailer from private equity firm

* Unlisted VNG group had total 2012 sales of 9.9 bln euros

By Vera Eckert

FRANKFURT, March 18 (Reuters) - Eastern German gas distributor VNG, part-owned by Russia's Gazprom which has long sought a greater share of Europe's gas retail market, said on Monday it acquired gas retailing company goldgas.

Gazprom, which has a 10.52 percent stake in VNG, inched closer to its target of better access to lucrative nearby European markets when it bought small retailer Envacom in late 2011 after failing to link up with RWE.

Last November, the Russian energy giant also widened its reach in the EU with an asset swap deal with BASF over three wholesale gas trading units and storage activities formerly shared with the chemicals group.

A year ago, goldgas was bought and restructured by private equity firm bluO, which is now selling it.

"VNG is to buy goldgas to make its core business complete along the value chain of exploration, production, trading, transport and storage," the Leipzig-based company said in a statement.

The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

The deal is subject to cartel office approval, and a decision is expected in the coming weeks, VNG said.

Goldgas, which comprises the brands goldgas and goldstrom, has 130,000 customers across Germany and Austria. It supplies households, housing associations and enterprises with power and gas.

VNG evolved from communist Germany's gas company and is a long-term partner of Gazprom, among other gas suppliers.

It has stakes in six regional and local distributors (Stadtwerke) in Germany and neighbouring Europe. Outside Germany, where it is in the top group of gas firms with E.ON Ruhrgas and Wingas, it also sells to Italy, Poland, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and France.

Unlisted VNG group had total sales of 9.9 billion euros in 2012, representing a 21 percent year-on-year rise, and a net profit of 103 million euros after a net loss of 211 million euros 2011.

VNG is part-owned by unlisted north-west German regional utility EWE, in which Germany's No.3 utility EnBW has a 26 percent stake. EWE's stake amounts to 47.90 percent.

Other shareholders in VNG include a group of local utilities called VNG Verwaltungs- und Beteiligungsgesellschaft of Erfurt (25.79 percent), Wintershall Holding GmbH (15.79 percent), and Gazprom Germania (10.52 percent).

VNG in January secured a 1 billion euro credit line from 12 banks for planned investments.

In a separate move, VNG is planning to sell its gas transmission system operator Ontras, sources said earlier this month. ($1 = 0.7654 euros) (Editing by Alison Birrane)

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