Germany's EWE gets funding boost from new shareholder Ardian

BERLIN (Reuters) - German regional utility EWE has access to half a billion euros ($555 million) in funds for growth from French private equity firm Ardian, its new anchor shareholder, the group’s chief executive said.

“Apart from the investment to acquire the 26% stake Ardian is making available up to 500 million euros for growth projects. Our financial firepower is very strong,” Stefan Dohler said.

Ardian, through its infrastructure arm, last month agreed to buy a 26% stake in EWE, 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.

Dohler said that Ardian was fully supporting the group’s strategy, which targets investments in renewables, digitalization, fiber optic network expansion, mobility and energy services.

He said there were no plans to sell further stakes to Ardian.

Dohler said EWE has looked at assets that larger peer E.ON has put up for sale in Germany to win antitrust approval for its takeover of Innogy IGY.DE, a landmark deal that has transformed the country's energy sector.

In Germany, E.ON is selling its business with 260,000 heating customers as well as the right to operate 32 charging stations for electric cars along the Autobahn motorway network.

“Both assets are not attractive for us, which is why we’re not pursuing it,” Dohler said, adding the group wanted to take its two coal-fired power stations in the city of Bremen off the grid earlier than 2030.

Editing by Thomas Seythal and Thomas Escritt