Uniper hires Rothschild to explore sale of French unit - source

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German energy group Uniper has mandated investment bank Rothschild to explore a sale of its French assets, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said, under pressure from a planned exit from coal-fired power.

Uniper, in which Finland’s Fortum owns a 47 percent stake, last month said it would have to review its business in France if the coal shutdown goes ahead.

A spokesman for Uniper said the French assets were subject to a strategic review, declining to be more specific. Rothschild was not immediately available for comment.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung earlier reported that Uniper had mandated Rothschild to explore the French sale.

Uniper owns about 2,100 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity in France, of which 1,200 MW are coal. Along with French state-controlled utility EDF, it is the only operator of coal-fired power plants in the country.

The assets are unlikely to fetch a high price, the source said, adding that sellers of coal plants, including Engie which is mulling a sale of its German sites, were in a tough spot as due to growing political aversion to the fuel.

French President Emmanuel Macron in November said the country would phase out all coal-fired stations by 2021 and Germany has formed a commission to come up with a roadmap for a phase-out of the technology.

Reporting by Arno Schuetze and Christoph Steitz; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Louise Heavens