FRANKFURT, June 19 (Reuters) - Belgium’s Elia could buy the 20 percent stake it does not own in power network operator 50Hertz and hand it over to German state-owned development bank KfW to prevent China’s State Grid from obtaining it, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported, citing people close to the negotiations.
Elia this year raised its stake in 50Hertz to 80 percent after exercising its pre-emptive right to buy a 20 percent stake from co-owner IFM, an Australian infrastructure fund, which State Grid was keen to acquire.
State Grid’s interest, which now revolves around IFM’s remaining stake in 50Hertz, is viewed critically by Berlin amid concern that China could take control of key technologies while protecting its own firms against foreign takeovers.
Citing people close to the negotiations, newspaper Handelsblatt said one option that was being discussed was that Elia once again exercises its pre-emptive right and then hands the stake over to KfW.
Elia, which paid 976.5 million euros ($1.1 billion) for a 20 percent stake in 50Hertz in March, has until end-July to decide.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier last week said he saw a problem in letting critical infrastructure fall into the hands of investors whose motivation and background were not clear, citing explicitly attempts to buy 50Hertz.
Elia, 50Hertz, Germany’s Economy Ministry and State Grid all declined to comment.
$1 = 0.8654 euros Reporting by Christoph Steitz, Gernot Heller, Tom Kaeckenhoff and Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Jason Neely