March 20, 2018 / 1:54 PM / 5 months ago

CEZ chief Benes says would like decision on transformation by mid-year

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech power producer CEZ (CEZP.PR) would like a decision by mid 2018 on the firm’s potential transformation that may include spinning off renewable energy and regulated assets, Chief Executive Daniel Benes said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO - Daniel Benes, chief executive (CEO) of Czech Republic-based electricity producer CEZ, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Prague October 23, 2014. REUTERS/David W Cerny

Benes told Reuters and Bloomberg in a joint interview the transformation would then take between two and three years to complete.

CEZ, with a market capitalisation of $13.2 billion (£9.43 billion), has been looking at ways to raise shareholder value by separating regulated assets such as renewable energy and distribution from traditional production in lignite and nuclear plants.

FILE PHOTO - Czech electricity producer CEZ's logo is seen on the company's headquarters in Prague March 17, 2013. REUTERS/David W Cerny

A plan under consideration would give the government, which now holds 70 percent in CEZ, full control of the traditional energy unit and allow it to go forward with the construction of a new nuclear power plant which CEZ has refused to do as a private enterprise without state guarantees. Some minority shareholders have also opposed taking on the project.

“It would be ideal to have the potential transformation decided — and I am not saying how it will look like, it has not been decided — sometime in the middle of the year and for it to last 2-3 years,” Benes said.

“This would not slow down those who are in charge at the government level of the new nuclear source.”

Under options being considered, private shareholders could take a bigger chunk in the other part of the firm. The government, however, may want to keep a majority stake.

The plan may come up for debate at the firm’s annual meeting in June but this will likely be too soon to have any proposal ready for voting, Benes said.

A tender for the supplier of one new nuclear unit at CEZ’s Dukovany plant and possibly one unit at the Temelin site to be built later could be announced in the third or fourth quarter this year and last for about three years, he added.

Benes also said a carve-up of German renewables, retail and network energy firm Innogy (IGY.DE) between parent RWE RWED.DE and E.ON EONG.DE was such a big deal that it could influence the debate on the changes at CEZ.

Anti-monopoly regulators in various countries could require the sale of some parts of the assets, he added.

“We see it both as a threat that a big player is growing, but at the same time as an opportunity of these induced transactions,” he said.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka, Editing by Michael Kahn

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