Eni discussing green unit stake sale with Norwegian fund -sources

Eni's logo is seen in front of its headquarters in San Donato Milanese
Eni's logo is seen in front of its headquarters in San Donato Milanese, near Milan, Italy, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

LONDON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Italian energy group Eni (ENI.MI) is discussing with Norwegian private equity firm HitecVision a sale of a stake in its retail and renewables unit Plenitude, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

After freezing plans for an initial public offering (IPO) last summer which it could resume in the future, Eni has been looking for a partner for its Plenitude business, said the people, asking to remain anonymous because the talks are private.

At the time, RBC analysts valued Plenitude at up to 8.4 billion euros ($9.15 billion), including debt.

The sale of a minority stake would give Eni cash to keep growing Plenitude and set a value for the unit ahead of a potential IPO, the sources said. Eni declined to comment. Paal Dahlberg, HitecVision's chief sustainability officer, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

A global effort to reduce the greenhouse gases that are accelerating climate change had been driving valuations for green energy companies, but rising interest rates and growing concern about energy security pricked what some had started to see as a market bubble. HitecVision may buy between 5% and 10% of Plenitude, according to one of the sources. Talks are ongoing and could still fall apart, the people said.

Plenitude generates power from renewables, sells electricity, gas and energy services to households and businesses and is developing a network of charging points for electric vehicles.

In October Eni said the unit was expected to post core earnings of more than 600 million euros for 2022.

HitecVision already partners with Plenitude in Norwegian offshore wind joint venture Vaargroenn, while the Nordic private equity firm is also allied with Eni in Vaar Energi (VAR.OL), where it is invested through Point Resources.

The private equity firm invests in the European energy sector with a special focus on the green transition.

After dropping its IPO plans due to excessively volatile markets, Eni said Plenitude would focus on investing in renewables and electric mobility.

In December Plenitude clinched a deal to buy 100% of wind and solar developer PLT worth more than 1 billion euros, Italian media reported.

($1 = 0.9185 euros)

Reporting by Andres Gonzalez, Isla Binnie, Francesca Landini, Nerijus Adomaitis; editing by Jason Neely

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