July 11 (Reuters) - A state-owned Qatari entity has held initial talks with German utility RWE about buying its DEA oil and gas exploration and production unit, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing two people familiar with the matter.
RWE in March said it was planning to sell DEA in a move to slash capital spending and cut its debt pile, with sources and analysts valuing the unit at about 5-8 billion euros ($6.52-$10.43 billion).
Until now, BASF group’s oil and gas arm Wintershall seemed to have been the only company to have expressed an interest in buying DEA and RWE has said that it does not expect the unit to be sold this year.
Qatar’s initial talks to buy DEA are unlikely to proceed quickly, the Journal reported, particularly given the recent handover of power by former Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to his son Sheikh Tamim.
But the Journal reported that RWE would like to attract numerous bids for DEA and seemed willing to give Qatar more time.
One of the people familiar with the matter told the Journal that the state-owned entity that had held talks with RWE was sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority.
RWE’s DEA unit and the Qatar Investment Authority could not be immediately reached for comment outside regular business hours. RWE declined to comment further on the DEA sale process to the Wall Street Journal.