Russia's state power trader Inter RAO is in talks with E.ON AG, RWE AG and Enel SpA on possible asset swaps or acquisitions in Europe as the company seeks to expand abroad, a company official said.
"Inter RAO is close to a agreement to buy for cash the Maritsa power plant in Bulgaria from Enel, Italy's largest utility, and may announce the outcome at the end of January," Ilnar Mirsiyapov, head of the company's strategy and investment department and management board member, said at a briefing in Moscow, as cited by Bloomberg agency.
Inter RAO is also seeking to swap its blocking stake in OAO OGK-5 for European assets, he said.
Meanwhile an Enel spokesman said the utility is interested in selling its stake in exchange for cash and not for assets.
Should the Russian company acquire Enel's assets in Bulgaria, it will become of the biggest energy companies in the country, accounting for about 12% of its electricity output.
Experts say Inter RAO's planned Bulgarian purchases fit in well with the strategy of the Russian company, which already owns GRES, the largest power station of Moldova, which exports electricity to Romania and Bulgaria.
Inter RAO also plans to be part of the consortium, which will construct the 4.8 GW Akkuyu nuclear plant. Turkey's first nuclear power plant is scheduled to be put into operations in 2011, with completion expected in 2018.
Enel Chief Executive Fulvio Conti said at the end of November that the company has "at least two" bidders for the Bulgarian coal power plant, known as Maritsa 3.
Russia's Inter RAO has been tipped as the most likely buyer of a majority stake in Bulgaria's Maritsa East 3 coal-fired power plant, controlled by Italy's Enel SpA.
In late July, Austria's utility EVN, which already owns EVN Bulgaria, an electricity distribution company in south and southeast Bulgaria, confirmed it is holding talks for the acquisition of a majority stake in the Maritsa East 3 coal-fired power plant.
British utility International Power, US power producer AES Corp. and CEZ AS are also said to have shown interest in acquiring Enel majority stake in Maritsa East 3.
A year ago Enel increased the capacity of Maritsa East Three plant to 908 megawatts, up from 840 MW, and also put new desulphurisation installations on the plant's four units.
Experts comment that the potential buyer is probably eying a 100% stake in the plant, in which the state owns a 27% stake. The rumors were fanned by a statement of Energy and Economy Minister Traicho Traikov, who recently announced that the state can land EUR 200 M from the sale of its stake in the plant.
The plant is located in the Maritsa East lignite coal mining complex in southern Bulgaria, which generates 30% of the country's electricity. Enel also owns seven wind parks of 3 megawatts near the Black Sea coast.