FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF, March 12 (Reuters) - Germany's second biggest utility RWE has hired Goldman Sachs to sell its oil and gas exploration unit DEA, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
RWE last week said it was planning to sell the unit in a move to slash investments and cut its 33 billion euro ($43 billion) debt pile. DEA swallowed investments of about 700 million euros in both 2011 and 2012.
One of the sources said DEA was valued at about 5 billion euros though some analysts last week said DEA could be worth as much as 8 billion euros.
RWE and Goldman Sachs both declined to comment.
DEA, which is active in Egypt, Norway, Libya and Britain among others, produced 5.1 million cubic metres in oil equivalents in 2011 and accounted for 23 percent of RWE's operating profit in 2012.
German utilities RWE, E.ON and EnBW have launched large asset sale programmes worth nearly 30 billion euros to raise cash for investment in new areas, including renewable energy.
The group's are still recovering from Germany's decision to exit nuclear energy by 2022 in the wake of the nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant.