German EWE receives offer for gas trading unit VNG

* Leipzig utility keen to control VNG

* EWE also talking to other companies

* EWE may not sell at all

FRANKFURT, July 15 (Reuters) – German utility EWE has received an offer for its majority stake in eastern German gas transmission company VNG AG, it said on Wednesday.

“We are studying this offer,” an EWE spokesman said, adding EWE was also talking to other parties and may decide not to sell at all.

The offer was made by Leipzig’s utility’s holding company, LVV, which has long expressed its interest in VNG, a strategically important importer and one of eastern Germany’s biggest firms, an LVV spokesman said.

LVV has been talking to Australian finance investor Macquarie about a financing scheme, people familiar with the deal said.

EWE is asking for roughly 1.5 billion euros ($1.65 billion), while LVV and Macquarie are so far bidding around 1 billion euros, several people familiar with the industry said.

A company with its own exploration and production activities, has also expressed interest in the VNG stake, these sources said.

An E&P group could benefit from a such deal by gaining access to a new distribution channel for its product while VNG would benefit from gaining a relatively cheap supplier and lessening its reliance on volatile market prices.

EWE currently holds 63.69 percent of VNG shares but plans to add 10.52 percent currently held by Russia’s Gazprom . LVV individually owns 7.5 percent of VNG shares but together with a group of eastern German municipalities has 25.8 percent.

Gas grids have been prime targets for infrastructure investors who are looking to buy into safer assets due to turbulent stock markets and low interest rates.

But gas traders are also interested in having exploration partners on board that can deliver gas cheaply for onward distribution. ($1 = 0.9069 euros) ($1 = 0.9075 euros) (Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff and Arno Schuetze; Writing by Vera Eckert)

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