Belgium's Elia interested in stakes in Dutch, French grids

BRUSSELS Wed May 22, 2013 2:59am EDT

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BRUSSELS May 22 (Reuters) - Belgium's power grid operator Elia would consider buying stakes in Dutch grid firm TenneT and French operator RTE, owned by state-controlled electricity company EDF, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

"They are really in same market zone as Elia, since they are neighbouring countries this makes it interesting indeed, and apparently there might be some opportunities," the spokeswoman said.

The Dutch state is considering the sale of part of TenneT in an initial public offering to raise 500 million euros ($644 million) for investments in the domestic grid, the head of the TenneT said in March.

Belgian business paper L'Echo said the French government wants state-controlled EDF to sell its subsidiary RTE, the French grid operator. EDF was not immediately available for comment.

Elia's chief executive Jacques Vandermeiren told newspapers L'Echo and De Tijd in articles published on Wednesday that he would be interested in taking stakes in the two neighbouring grid operators as long as certain conditions were met.

"The operation needs to happen, the price must be right, we need to get a big enough stake and our shareholders must find that it's an opportune deal," the papers quote Vandermeiren as saying.

Elia bought part of German Transmission System Operator 50Hertz Transmission from Sweden-based state-owned energy group Vattenfall in 2010.

Elia's shareholder equity was just over 2 billion euros at the end of 2012, while its net debt was 2.9 billion euros. The company has a 3 billion euro Euro Medium Term Note (EMTN) Programme.

($1 = 0.7769 euros) (Wrtiting by Ben Deighton; Additional reporting by Geert De Clerq in Paris; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Mark Potter)

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