E.ON sells gas grid to a Macquarie-led consortium for €3.2bn

German utility E.ON AG (ETR:EOAN) said it had agreed to sell its gas grid in Germany Open Grid Europe (OGE) to a consortium of Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 4, Infinity Investments, British Columbia Investment Management Corp and Meag Munich Ergo for around EUR3.2bn (USD4bn).

E.ON said it would use the proceeds from this divestment to cut debt and invest in growth operations.

The group, which aims to raise some EUR15bn from disposals by 2013, said the sale of OGE brought it closer to that target. So far E.ON has sold assets worth over EUR12bn, it said.

OGE, the former gas transmission division of E.ON Ruhrgas AG, has been separated from the parent company in 2010 and established as an independent transmission operator in line with the European Union (EU) norms.

Now the firm operates the largest gas transmission system in Germany, serving as a key centre in Europe for shipments of bulk gas from Russia and Norway.

The Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 4 of Australian banking group Macquarie Group Ltd (ASX:MQG) headed the buying consortium. Edward Beckley, head of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets in Europe, commented that OGE was a very well run firm in a stable and regulated environment.

According to unnamed sources cited by Bloomberg, the buyers had resorted to nine banks to underwrite loans of over EUR2bn to help finance the deal.

E.ON said it expected to wrap up the sale in the third quarter of this year, pending clearance from the German Federal Cartel Office and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.