* Last binding offers to be submitted this week - sources
* BASF's Wintershall, Mikhail Fridman, MOL still in the race
* KKR, Kufpec interest has cooled off -sources
(Adds quotes, context on DEA)
By Arno Schuetze, Christoph Steitz and Alexander Hübner
FRANKFURT, March 10 Bidders have started
submitting binding offers for DEA, the oil and gas
production unit of German utility RWE, and a deal
could be struck as early as this month, three people familiar
with the matter told Reuters.
"RWE is stepping up the pressure to get the sale done soon,"
one of the sources said, adding the group was already excluding
DEA in its mid-term planning.
With operations in 14 countries including Germany, Britain,
Norway and Egypt, DEA employs nearly 1,400 and accounted for
about 9 percent of RWE's operating profit last year.
It has stakes in about 190 oil and gas licences or
concessions in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, some of
which are non-producing and in need of large investments.
Some final bids for DEA have already been submitted and the
remaining ones are expected this week, two of the sources said,
adding BASF's oil and gas exploration unit
Wintershall, Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman and Hungarian oil
and gas group MOL were still in the race.
A consortium consisting of U.S. private equity firm KKR
and Kuwait Petroleum Corp's Kufpec have put in a
"cautious" bid after their interest in the asset cooled off, two
of the sources said, adding the offer was unlikely to succeed as
RWE, MOL, KKR, Fridman and Wintershall all declined to
comment, while Kufpec was not immediately available to comment.
A deal could be signed as soon as this month, the three
people said, though did not rule out that it may take until
April for an agreement to be reached.
RWE Chief Executive Peter Terium last week said the group
aimed to complete the sale, first announced a year ago, by the
middle of the year, adding it was on track to achieve this.
No financial details of the binding bids emerged, but one of
the sources said that the range was expected to be similar to
what was offered in the first round, when bids ranged between
3.5 billion and 5 billion euros ($4.9-6.9 billion).
One of the main factors behind the wide valuation range is
DEA's portfolio in Egypt, bankers have said, pointing to the
country's political situation as well as large investment
commitments by DEA.
($1 = 0.7214 euros)
(Additional reporting Vera Eckert in Frankfurt, Tom Kaeckenhoff
in Duesseldorf, Krisztina Than in Budapest and Sylvia Westall in
Kuwait; Editing by Pravin Char)