UPDATE 1-Sale of Hispasat stake could smooth takeover of Abertis

(Adds share price and details on Hispasat business)

MADRID, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Spanish toll operator Abertis is seeking to sell its majority stake in satellite business Hispasat, in a move that could smooth the way for a takeover of Abertis.

Abertis, which is at the centre of a 17.1-billion-euro ($21 billion) bid battle, said in a regulatory filing late Wednesday it wanted to sell its 57 percent in Hispasat to Spanish grid operator Red Electrica for at least 656 million euros ($806 million).

It said the deal, which would require the approval of the Spanish government, would be discussed during its next shareholder meeting in March.

Italian motorway operator Atlantia is competing against Hochtief, the German arm of Spanish builder ACS, in the battle for Abertis.

Spain’s stock market regulator (CNMV) approved Atlantia’s bid in October, but is yet to clear the offer made by Hochtief.

The Spanish government, however, has asked the regulator to revoke its approval of Atlantia’s bid because the Italian group had not sought government permission to acquire Hispasat, which Madrid considers a strategic asset.

By selling its stake in Hispasat to a Spanish buyer, Abertis could make it easier for a foreign buyer to take the group over.

At 1445 GMT, Abertis shares were little changed at 19.56 euros. Atlantia’s were down 1.9 percent at 24.72 euros, while Hochtief’s were down 3.2 percent at 133.7 euros and ACS’s down 0.9 percent at 29.04 euros.

$1 = 0.8143 euros Reporting by Carlos Ruano; Writing by Jesus Aguado; Editing by Angus Berwick and Mark Potter