October 10, 2019 / 1:01 PM / 6 months ago

Race for German utility EWE down to two suitors - sources

FRANKFURT, Oct 10 (Reuters) - The number of suitors for a minority stake in EWE has been boiled down to two as the one of the year's biggest utility deals in Germany edges towards the finishing line, three people close to the matter said.

A consortium comprised of Australian infrastructure investor Macquarie and German insurer Allianz is vying with French buyout group Ardian for the stake, which could be valued at 1.2 billion to 1.4 billion euros ($1.3-$1.5 billion), they said.

Final offers were due at the end of September and other suitors such as a consortium comprised of asset manager DWS , Dutch pension fund PGGM and insurer Swiss Life , was no longer in the race, the people said.

A decision is expected in the coming weeks, they added.

EWE and the suitors either declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.

While stable returns from regulated gas and power grids have been a magnet for infrastructure funds in recent years, they are expected to fall due to the unchanged low interest rate environment in Europe.

Retail markets have also become more challenging across the continent, including in Germany, where EWE has 3.2 million power and gas customers and faces growing competition from smaller players that are muscling in.

EWE has been looking for a new anchor shareholder since German rival EnBW agreed to pull out in 2015 as part of an asset swap in which EWE sold its majority stake in gas firm VNG.

$1 = 0.9066 euros Reporting by Arno Schuetze and Christoph Steitz; editing by David Evans

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