France's Ardian becomes new anchor shareholder of Germany's EWE

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - French private equity group Ardian has become the new anchor shareholder of German EWE, the regional utility said on Friday, in a deal sources said was worth up to 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion).

Ardian, through its infrastructure arm, is buying a 26% stake in EWE as part of the deal, marking the end of an M&A process that was started when former anchor shareholder, German utility EnBW EBKG.DE, decided to pull out four years ago.

Sources had told Reuters last month that Ardian was the leading bidder in the auction run by Citi C.N, trumping a rival offer from a tie-up of Macquarie MQG.AX and Allianz ALVG.DE.

“With Ardian, we will have a strategic growth partner with extensive experience in the pan-European infrastructure sector with thinking just as long-term, prudent and sustainable as ours,” EWE Chief Executive Stefan Dohler said in a statement.

The deal is expected to be approved by Germany’s cartel office in the first quarter of 2020, EWE said. No financial details were disclosed but sources previously said the offer was between 1.2-1.4 billion euros.

EWE said that once the transaction has closed, the two firms would work together to accelerate EWE’s growth, with a particular focus on investments in renewables, energy networks and telecommunications.

Reporting by Christoph Steitz and Tom Kaeckenhoff, editing by Riham Alkousaa and Louise Heavens