Czech energy companies face off over Vattenfall German power portfolio

Head office Berlin, photo: Archive of Vattenfall

Two Czech energy companies Energetický a Průmyslový Holding (EPH) and Czech Coal have announced they submitted binding bids for Vattenfall's German assets. But the Czech Republic's biggest electricity producer, ČEZ, said it will not make a binding bid.

Head office Berlin,  photo: Archive of Vattenfall
EPH said that it made a joint bid with the Czech company PPF Investments, owned by the richest Czech Petr Kellner. EPH board chairman Daniel Křetínský said that the joint offer represented "a fair and firm value for the assets" and that it saw brown coal as continuing to play a declining but still strong role in the German power sector. PPF teamed up with EPH in past energy investments and was a former major shareholder in the EPH group. EPH already operates the MIBRAG brown coal mining operations in former East Germany together with a series of coal-fired power plants in Germany and the Czech Republic. The offer envisages MIBRAG and the Vattenfall assets being run separately under current management.

Brown coal,  photo: Archive of Czech Coal
Czech brown coal mining group Czech Coal said Wednesday that it had submitted a binding offer for the Vattenfall portfolio through its Vršanská Uhelná subsidiary. The assets which put up for sale by the Swedish energy company comprise five brown coal mines, four coal-fired power plants and 10 hydro facilities. The whole portfolio represents 8,000 MW of power capacity with Vattenfall employing 8,000 at its German unit. Vršanská Uhelná spokesman David Vidomus said no further details of the offer could be made for now.

ČEZ and the other two Czech companies all registered their interest in the Vattenfall portfolio. ČEZ said in a statement that it was deterred from making a binding bid because of the recent unfavourable development in wholesale electricity prices and the uncertainty over whether some coal plants in Germany will have to close early as a result of the country's energy policy.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
ČEZ said however that it is "prepared to discuss other possible options and terms of the acquisition," saying the assets on offer represented an interesting opportunity for ČEZ to expand into the neighbouring region and that coal still had a role in Europe as a bridging technology to greater use of renewables.

ČEZ chief executive Daniel Beneš said in recent weeks that the company was looking for assurances and greater certainty from the German government about its future energy policy and what that would mean for the coal sector.

ČEZ had previously talked up the possible synergies of the Vattenfall assets given the Czech power producer's experience with brown coal or lignite mining and power plant operation. Around half of ČEZ's electricity is generated from brown coal. Most analysts have welcomed ČEZ’s decision not to bid for what were regarded as risky assets given Germany’s commitment to phase out most of its fossil fuel power plants over time.