* Neoen IPO could value the firm at 1 billion euros
* Natixis, JPMorgan appointed lead advisers for IPO
* Neoen capacity seen doubling to 3-4 GW by 2020
By Geert De Clercq
PARIS, March 7 (Reuters) - France's Neoen plans a stock market listing by the end of 2018 that could value the renewable energy developer at 1 billion euros ($1.24 billion), a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
The source told Reuters the initial public offering (IPO) was aimed mainly at providing an exit for private equity group Omnes Capital, which has two funds with a combined 24 percent stake in Neoen.
"Omnes is at the end of its holding period, the IPO will give it the opportunity to exit," the source said, adding that Neoen has little need for external cash as its current shareholders are funding its capital needs.
Omnes Capital could not immediately be reached for comment.
Neoen was founded by Jacques Veyrat, the former chief executive of commodities giant Louis Dreyfus, who still owns a 56 stake in Neoen through his investment vehicle Impala and who will hang on to its majority stake in the IPO.
State investment fund Bpifrance owns 14 percent of Neoen.
The source said it was too early to comment on a precise value for the company so far ahead of the operation but that one billion euros would be a reasonable figure.
"Let's say that Jacques Veyrat has a good track record at raising unicorns," he said.
The source said Neoen had appointed Natixis and JPMorgan as lead banks for the share sale, with Societe Generale and Barclays in a supporting role.
The source said Neoen, which has invested one billion euros in renewable energy assets since its foundation in 2008, is growing quickly in France, Australia and Latin America, notably in Mexico and Argentina.
The company has 1,525 megawatts of renewable energy generating capacity installed or under construction and is aiming for capacity of 3,000 to 4,000 MW by 2020.
It is one of several start-up French renewable energy companies that are competing with market leaders EDF and Engie.
It stole a march on its big competitors in 2015 by opening a 300 MW solar farm, then Europe’s biggest, near Bordeaux.
Neoen chief executive Xavier Barbaro told Reuters in Sept. 2016 the firm was considering an IPO before the end of the decade in order to fund its rapid growth.
Several promising French renewable energy firms have been bought by French utilities recently, including solar firm Solairedirect, acquired by Engie for 430 million euros in 2016, and Quadran, bought by Direct Energie last year. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)