* Macquarie takes 30 pct share in EPH's infrastructure arm
* Deal set to finalise in Q1 2017
* CEO Kretinsky buys out partners to become main EPH owner
(Adds CEO comments, more on EPH ownership changes, details)
By Jason Hovet
PRAGUE, Oct 17 Czech privately-held energy group
EPH has agreed to sell a 30 percent stake in its EP
Infrastructure (EPIF) unit to an investor group led by Macquarie
Infrastructure and Real Assets, EPH said on Monday.
EPH has grown into one of central Europe's biggest energy
firms and the deal marks the first major investment in its
business by global investors hunting yield.
The transaction also gives EPH cash to buy back some of its
stock and consolidate most of its ownership under Chief
Executive Daniel Kretinsky, who has set a strategy of taking on
traditional assets dumped by European peers shifting to cleaner
EPH created EPIF by carving out businesses that have
long-term contracts and stable profits such as gas and power
distributors, gas storage and transmission, and heating assets.
It is separate from EPH's power generation asset group that
has bought coal-fired plants in Britain, Germany and Italy in
EPH had revenues of 4.6 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in
2015, with EPIF its biggest earner. EPIF includes EPH's flagship
49 percent stake in Slovak gas pipeline operator Eustream, which
delivers Russian natural gas via Ukraine to the European Union
and European gas to Ukraine.
EPH had scrapped plans for an initial public offering of
EPIF in April. Sources said it then started talks with
The company did not disclose financial details on Monday.
Closing is expected in the first quarter next year.
EPH will use proceeds from the Macquarie deal to buy out
minority shareholders, leaving 41-year-old Kretinsky as a 94
percent owner with other management holding the rest.
The related shareholder deals value EPH at 5 billion euros,
the company said. The selling parties are Patrik Tkac of
Czech-Slovak bank J&T and small shareholders who are part of J&T
Kretinsky, a lawyer who started his career at J&T, has
helped build EPH into a company that produced 101 terawatt hours
of electricity last year, more than majority state-owned Czech
group CEZ, central Europe's biggest listed utility.
EPH has been snapping up coal, gas and nuclear power assets,
betting they will remain strong energy sources and pay off once
electricity prices rise from lows.
Recent purchases include Eggborough in Britain in 2014,
E.ON's gas and coal-fired plants in southern Italy in
2015, and, together with private equity firm PPF Investments,
Vattenfall's lignite plants in Germany this year.
EPH is also set to become majority owner of Slovakia's top
electricity producer Slovenske Elektrarne, part of a deal agreed
in December 2015 with Enel of Italy.
Kretinsky, speaking on Monday at an energy conference in
Slovakia, said EPH wanted to grow in Italy and Britain and seek
opportunities in other developed European markets.
"Part of the current strategy is, if it is possible under
reasonable conditions, to strengthen further our presence in the
European sector of electricity production from thermal (coal)
sources," he said.
($1 = 0.8928 euros)
(Additional reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka, and
Tatiana Jancarikova in Bratislava, Editing by Louise Heavens and