* Consortium will acquire shares for close to 1.6 bln eur
* Price includes 400 mln eur debt
* Net4Gas operates over 3,600 km of Czech pipelines
* Transaction expected to close in H2 2013
(Rewrites first paragarph, adds detail on price, Allianz
comment, Hungarian deal, background)
By Christoph Steitz
FRANKFURT, March 28 German insurer Allianz SE
and a Canadian investor agreed to pay some 1.6 billion
euros ($2 billion) including debt for a Czech gas pipeline
operator, as financial investors flock to such assets in search
of safe returns.
The purchase of RWE AG's Net4Gas unit is the
latest in a string of acquisitions in the field of power and gas
grids, which are attracting pension funds and insurers due the
promise of steady returns amid low bond yields and volatile
It is also one of a series of asset disposals by RWE,
burdened by debt and pressured by Germany's decision to quit
Allianz, together with Canada's Borealis, beat two
privately held Czech groups - EPH and KKCG - which had been seen
as favourites in the race for the firm, which transports mainly
Russian gas for customers in the Czech Republic and western
Europe, mainly Germany.
"With the sale to Allianz and Borealis ... we have succeeded
to find a very reliable long-term investor for Net4Gas," RWE
Chief Executive Peter Terium said on Thursday.
A Czech government official said earlier this week the
central European country would welcome stable western investors
such as Allianz and Borealis in the country's gas transportation
Sources familiar with the talks had told Reuters on
Wednesday that Allianz and Borealis were close to signing a deal
to buy Net4Gas.
An RWE spokeswoman said the 1.6 billion euro price tag
included about 400 million euros in debt, which put the cash
element of the deal at close to 1.2 billion.
Allianz said it and Borealis - the infrastructure investment
arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS)
- will each own 50 percent of Net4Gas.
Borealis Infrastructure President and CEO Michael Rolland
said the deal expanded a European portfolio which already
included investments in Associated British Ports and other
Other financial investors, including Australia's Macquarie
and German reinsurer Munich Re, have also
started to invest in regulated infrastructure assets, including
gas and power grids, and other deals are possible in the sector.
People familiar with the matter said French gas and power
group GDF Suez could sell a stake in its gas transport
unit GRTgaz to reduce debt, while German gas firm VNG
is planning to sell its gas transmission system operator Ontras.
In another deal in the sector, more in line with a
regulatory crackdown in eastern Europe on gas firms and
increasing government control, Hungary signed a deal on Thursday
to buy local gas units of Germany's E.ON.
Net4Gas operates more than 3,600 km of pipelines - including
links from Russia via Slovakia and the Nordstream pipeline - and
employs more than 500.
RWE expects the transaction to close in the second half of
Burdened by 33 billion euros of debt and Germany's decision
to exit nuclear energy, RWE is selling billions of euros in
assets, including its oil and gas exploration unit DEA
($1 = 0.7824 euros)
($1 = 0.7788 euros)
(Addtional reporting by Jan Korselt and Jonathan Gould; Writing
by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Maria Sheahan and David Holmes)