May 15, 2019 / 4:54 PM / 10 days ago

Energy billionaires, CEZ bid for Alpiq's Czech power plants -sources

PRAGUE, May 15 (Reuters) - Two Czech energy billionaires and state-controlled CEZ have bid to buy Swiss firm Alpiq's coal- and gas-fired power plants in the Czech Republic, sources close to the deal said on Wednesday.

Alpiq, which has racked up annual losses in recent years, said earlier this year it was reviewing the sale of the plants for what it called strategic reasons.

The sources said Pavel Tykac's Sev.en Energy, investor Daniel Kretinsky's EPH, and utility CEZ were bidding for a 524 MW coal and gas plant at Kladno near Prague and a 64 MW coal plant in the eastern city of Zlin.

Sev.en, CEZ, EPH and Alpiq declined to comment.

It was unclear if other companies had bid for the assets but power trader Bohemia Energy, which one source said had looked at the deal, said it was not in the process at the moment.

Alpiq accounts for 15-20% of Switzerland's power output and plans to focus on hydropower as its home country phases out nuclear energy production.

Two market sources said the assets were a good fit for EPH, Sev.en or CEZ given they have their own lignite mines.

"This makes biggest sense for somebody who has their own coal. The margins there are at much higher levels," one source said.

CEZ Chairman Daniel Benes told Czech daily E15 in April the deal was not a priority and, if CEZ took part, it would not want to win at any cost.

EPH has been buying coal and other power plants around Europe in the past years.

Sev.en has also been looking for more deals. It owns lignite mines and a coal plant in the Czech Republic as well as shares in power plants in Britain and Australia.

Sources said Alpiq may announce results of the sale process as soon as on Thursday.

Alpiq tried to sell its Czech assets in 2013 but the process failed after bidders refused to pay minimum prices the seller had asked for. (Reporting by Jan Lopatka, Additionoal reporting by Jason Hovet and John Miller; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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