* Nearly three-quarters of Eneco shareholders endorse sale
* Company’s book value is 2.9 billion euros
* Final decision on sale or IPO likely in 2018
AMSTERDAM, Nov 1 (Reuters) - A commission representing shareholders in Dutch energy firm Eneco said on Wednesday that cities holding a 74 percent stake have resolved to sell their shares by an Oct. 31 deadline and will now begin talks on how.
The municipal governments that own the company’s shares, valued at 2.9 billion euros ($3.4 billion), have been reviewing their role in Eneco since the Dutch government split the former utility into a public grid company, Stedin, and a generation company, Eneco, earlier this year.
Eneco, which invested aggressively in renewable energy as the Dutch government fell behind on its environmental goals, lobbied first not to be split and more recently, for shareholders not to sell their shares.
Rotterdam alderman Adriaan Visser, who chairs the shareholders’ commission, said in a statement that the result of the vote showed cities don’t have a role in owning private companies. He said it represented a “clear vote for starting to investigate a sale.”
Eneco spokesman Edwin van de Haar said the company doesn’t have a preferred new owner in mind.
“Now we’ll sit down at the table with the shareholders’ commission to talk about how the sale process is going to look,” he said.
A final decision on Eneco’s sale won’t be made until after municipal elections in March and a second, definitive shareholders vote.
A range of buyers are likely to be interested in Eneco if it is auctioned, including Denmark’s Orsted Energy and Shell, which is currently partnering with Eneco on the construction of a major offshore wind park.
Newspaper De Telegraaf reported this week that investment firm Hal Trust may also be interested in Eneco.
Also Wednesday a group of Dutch environmental groups said they have raised 20 million euros and hope to rally further support from “citizens” to purchase the company and keep it in public hands. ($1 = 0.8607 euros) (Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)