Hungary's MVM joins bidding for E.ON's Czech Innogy asset sale

BUDAPEST/PRAGUE, June 3 (Reuters) - Hungary’s state-owned energy group MVM has put in a final bid for E.ON’s Czech Innogy retail operations as it seeks to expand in central Europe, chairman and CEO Gyorgy Kobor told Reuters.

MVM joins a list of Czech players expected to compete in the sale, which has been agreed with the European Union to secure antitrust clearance of Germany utility E.ON’s purchase of Innogy’s network and retail assets.

In the Czech Republic, Innogy has nearly 1.6 million gas and electricity customers.

“For us, the Czech Republic is one of the region’s most important target countries,” Kobor said in an emailed reply to questions.

A Czech newspaper reported in May that MVM could team up with the biggest Czech energy group CEZ for a bid and split gas and electricity customers.

A CEZ spokesman said the company was not in the bidding.

Kobor said MVM was on its own.

“We see ourselves as a prospective buyer for the entire retail segment, and we submitted our bid with this in mind as expansion and the strengthening of market positions are key for us,” he said.

Reuters reported in March that investment vehicles of four of the Czech Republic’s seven richest men - EPH, KKCG, Sev.en Energy and PPF - as well as majority German-owned utility Prazska energetika (PRE) had been asked for final bids.

E.ON declined to comment on bids, which sources said were due last Friday.

E.ON had hoped to fetch more than six times core earnings, a valuation of 800-900 million euros, including debt, according to a source in March.

The coronavirus outbreak may have an impact on valuations.

MVM, which comprises Hungary’s nuclear power plant, gas-fired and solar power generation capacities, the Hungarian grid operator and is also involved in the gas market, declined to comment on its bid.

“We are actively seeking cooperation and investment opportunities in the region, including in the countries of the Central and Eastern Europe and Balkans regions,” Kobor added.

Reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest and Jason Hovet in Prague; additional reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff in Duesseldorf; editing by Jason Neely