UPDATE 2-Alstom sells heat exchanger unit to Triton for $1 bln
* Higher-than-expected deal price of 730 mln euros
* Alstom aiming to raise up to 2 bln euros from sales
* Shares up 7 pct, biggest rise by a European blue-chip (Adds analyst comment, financing details, shares)
By Maya Nikolaeva and Natalie Huet
PARIS, April 1 (Reuters) - French turbine and train maker Alstom is selling its heat exchanger business for a higher-than-expected 730 million euros ($1 billion), giving a boost to its drive to raise cash to help it cope with weak demand for power equipment.
Shares in the company rose as much as 7 percent on Tuesday, the biggest increase by a European blue-chip stock, after it announced the sale to private equity group Triton.
Alstom has been hit hard by a drop in orders for power equipment from utilities, which are suffering in turn from weak electricity prices.
The group said in November it planned to raise up to 2 billion euros from selling non-core assets to help pay its debts and give it the flexibility to make acquisitions in faster-growing markets, which could include rail signalling.
"The achieved price ... is at the top end of our expectations and it illustrates that Alstom is moving forward with its non-strategic asset disposals," said Rob Virdee, an analyst at Espirito Santo.
Reuters reported advanced talks on the deal on Monday, with sources citing an offer valuing the unit at about 500-550 million euros.
Alstom said the deal was approved by its board of directors on March 31 and would close in the first half of its 2014-2015 fiscal year.
Triton's bid was seen as having the edge on a rival offer by private equity firm Bain, sources familiar with the process had said. Private equity firm Astorg was also expected to have submitted a bid last week.
A group of banks including Barclays, Citi, ING, RBC and Societe Generale are expected to have committed debt financing to back the buyout, banking sources said.
The financing will total around 430 million euros or about six times the heat exchanger unit's approximate 73 million euros of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.
It will be in the form of senior and second lien leveraged loans denominated in euros and dollars, the bankers said, adding it will launch for syndication to institutional investors shortly. Triton declined to comment on the financing.
The heat exchanger unit makes equipment and conducts after-sales service for product lines used by boiler companies and utilities such as air preheaters, gas-gas heater units for thermal stations and heat transfer solutions.
It employs 1,500 people worldwide with operations in Germany, the United States, Japan, China, India, Brazil, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and is headquartered in Germany.
It is expected to post revenues of 430 million euros in the year ending March 31, with a double-digit operating margin, Alstom added.
At 0955 GMT, Alstom shares were up 6.9 percent at 21.185 euros.
($1 = 0.7256 euros) (Additional reporting by Claire Ruckin; Editing by Andrew Callus and Mark Potter)