Greek power grid operator HEDNO attracts infrastructure funds - sources

ATHENS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Infrastructure funds are preparing to participate in an auction for a minority stake in Greece’s sole power network operator HEDNO, two people familiar with the tender said on Thursday.

Investors including asset managers Ardian, Macquarie and First Sentier are expected to submit expressions of interest for a 49% stake in HEDNO by a Friday deadline, they said.

Given HEDNO’s enterprise value of about 5 billion euros ($6.04 billion), the stake could be worth around 2.45 billion euros.

Infrastructure investor Copelouzos, which co-owns Athens Airport together with Canadian Investment Fund PSP, is seen as a potential bidder, although it remained unclear whether it will follow through with an expression of interest.

First Sentier and Macquarie declined to comment, while PSP, Copelouzos and Ardian did not respond to requests for comment.

The sources said Greece’s large privately owned utilities such as GEK Terna are unlikely to bid.

The fact that the minority stake comes with little influence over the future strategy of HEDNO is seen as a disincentive for utilities to participate in the auction, they said.

HEDNO, fully owned by Greece’s biggest state-owned power utility Public Power Corp (PPC), operates a 242,000-kilometre long grid bringing electricity to about 7 million households and businesses across the country.

PPC also declined to comment. The utility plans to spend about 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) by 2023 to upgrade its network, which has been hurt by underspending during a decade-long financial crisis in Greece.

The grid mainly consists of overhead cables susceptible to faults in cases of adverse weather. Investment also includes replacing outdated meters with smart ones.

The need to modernise the grid came to the fore this week after heavy snowfall swept the country, with tree branches falling on cables and leaving thousands of households with no power for days.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday that his government will press ahead with a plan to build underground power cables in areas where this was necessary for safety.

$1 = 0.8284 euros Editing by Jan Harvey