June 18, 2014 / 10:06 AM / in 4 years

UPDATE 1-Enel considers East Europe asset sales to cut debt - source

* Enel aiming to sell 4.4 bln euros of assets in 2014

* Debt target is 37 bln euros in 2014

* Slovakian unit could be one of assets for sale (Recasts lead, adds detail, shares, source comment)

ROME, June 18 (Reuters) - Italy’s biggest utility Enel aims to sell assets in Eastern Europe as part of its plans to meet debt reduction targets, a source close to the matter said on Wednesday.

Utilities across Europe have been struggling to keep debt under control as margins have been undermined by lower demand. Many have been taken by surprise by a surge in output from renewable energy sources, mainly solar and wind, making many fossil-fuelled thermal plants redundant and leading to a collapse in wholesale power prices.

Enel, Europe’s most indebted utility, aims to cut its net debt to about 37 billion euros ($50 billion) in 2014 from 41.5 billion euros at the end of March to help it keep its investment-grade rating.

“The debt needs to be cut and so assets need to be sold. There has been interest for the East European assets,” the source said.

Enel declined to comment.

Enel Chief Executive Francesco Starace, who took over from predecessor Fulvio Conti in May, has pledged to stick to an asset-disposal plan committing the group to sell around 4.4 billion euros of assets this year.

Starace, former head of the group’s renewable unit Enel Green Power, has previously said the company will identify a series of assets worth more than the targeted amount and choose from them.

In June Starace told an Italian newspaper the group’s 66 percent stake in Slovakian generating company Slovenske Elektrarne was one asset that could be considered for sale.

A London-based analyst recently said the enterprise value of Slovenske Elektrarne could be in the region of 4 billion euros.

Newspaper reports have said Enel could also sell its Russian generating unit OGK-5 as well as assets in Romania.

The source said Enel’s decision to leave Eastern Europe was not tied to “geopolitical reasons”.

At 0848 GMT Enel shares were down 0.68 percent while the European utility index was up 0.06 percent. ($1 = 0.7345 Euros) (Reporting by Alberto Sisto; Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Giselda Vagnoni and Pravin Char)

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