Senior German politicians question RWE unit sale to Russian tycoon

BERLIN, March 18 Tue Mar 18, 2014 2:13pm EDT

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BERLIN, March 18 (Reuters) - Senior German politicians have questioned utility group RWE's decision to sell its oil and gas unit DEA to investors led by Russia's second-richest man Mikhail Fridman.

RWE said on Sunday it would sell the profitable part of its business to the investor group in a deal worth 5.1 billion euros ($7.1 billion), as it struggles to emerge from a deep energy industry crisis and its first net loss since 1949.

The deal comes as relations deteriorate between Russia and the West over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

Michael Fuchs, deputy parliamentary leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), urged the government to examine the DEA deal, warning Germany's energy dependence on Russia was already too high.

His party colleague Joachim Pfeiffer echoed his criticism, as did the deputy leader of the Greens, Kerstin Andreae, and the deputy parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) Hubertus Heil, although Heil added the government could not meddle in business matters.

RWE said on Sunday it had told the German government about the deal and received no indication it would be opposed to it, while a spokeswoman for Germany's Economy Ministry said on Monday Europe's biggest economy was not worried that the deal would be a threat to natural gas supplies or energy security.

Under German law the government can veto sales to foreign companies if German security is in doubt.

"I would have preferred it if they had sold to someone other than the Russians," Fuchs told Reuters. "It would certainly not do any harm to examine the sale." ($1 = 0.7188 Euros) (Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by David Holmes)

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