Italy's F2i picks Rothschild to sell stake in solar unit EF Solare

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s biggest infrastructure fund F2i has picked Rothschild to sell a minority stake in its solar power venture EF Solare Italia to pay down debt, three sources said on Wednesday.

EF Solare, Italy’s biggest solar power operator, is worth around 2.5-3.0 billion euros ($3.3 billion) including debt, one of the sources said.

F2i, partly owned by state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, bought out EF Solare more than a year ago by acquiring utility Enel's ENEI.MI 50% stake in the joint venture for an equity consideration of 214 million euros.

At the time of that deal, EF Solare had debt of around 900 million euros.

In December the fund then used EF Solare to buy Spain’s Renovalia Energy Group in a deal worth around 700 million euros to become one of Europe’s biggest solar power companies.

The two deals were funded with bank loans and the sale of a stake is designed to pay down the debt, the sources said.

Two of the sources said F2i was considering the sale of a 30% stake, adding that bids could be lined up around March or April.

EF Solare Italia has more than 850 megawatts of capacity in Italy across more than 300 plants. The acquisition of Renovalia added a further 1,000 MW to its portfolio, though 85% of that is still under construction.

F2i declined to comment.

Editing by Giulio Piovaccari