LISBON/MADRID, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Portugal’s largest company EDP Energias de Portugal could sell the gas distribution network of its Spanish subsidiary Naturgas if it can get the right price, and has hired banks to evaluate the asset, sources told Reuters on Friday.
EDP has been working to diminish debt of around 16 billion euros ($17 billion), including via asset sales. Its target is to cut the net debt-to-EBITDA ratio to 3 times by 2020 from just under 4 times last year.
Naturgas is Spain’s second-largest gas distributor with 7,715 km (4,800 miles) of networks in northern Spain and some analysts put its value at over 2 billion euros.
One source with the knowledge of the situation said that EDP had mandated one or two investment banks to analyse the value of Naturgas after the sector’s business valuations improved.
“EDP wants to be prepared in case a good proposal materialises, but it has not taken any decision to sell,” the source said.
An EDP spokesman declined to comment.
Another source said the Portuguese company had already started informal talks with several parties interested in Naturgas, but would not say who the potential buyers might be.
Spanish gas assets have been the focus of investor interest in the past two years.
Goldman Sachs is awaiting binding bids for Redexis, which Spanish media estimate could fetch 2.5 billon euros. And in 2015 a consortium led by Dutch pension fund PGGM bought Madrileña Red de Gas from Morgan Stanley at high multiples of 13 times EBITDA.
One source said EDP was likely to wait for the result of the Redexis sale to take a decision on Naturgas.
Spanish daily El Economista said on Friday that EDP sought 2 billion euros for Naturgas, but the second source told Reuters that would be below fair value.
Analysts at Portugal’s Banco BPI said in a research note on Friday they value Naturgas at 2.1 billion euros.
They said a potential sale “makes sense financially due to the all-time high valuations for regulated assets”, while Naturgas has a relatively low weight within EDP’s operations and offers only limited synergies with its other businesses.
EDP is also trying to sell a small gas distribution company in Portugal, Portgas.
$1 = 0.9383 euros Reporting by Sergio Goncalves and Jose Elias Rodriguez; Writing By Andrei Khalip; Editing by Ruth Pitchford