Verbund is seeking to sell much of its gas-fired power fleet in Austria and France, citing persistent unprofitable conditions.

AnzengruberAustria’s biggest utility is looking at bids from both inside and outside the EU, with Russian gas giant Gazprom also expressing interest.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Anzengruber (right) expressed frustration at the circumstances surrounding the sale, saying, “The emission-trading system doesn’t work. We’ve had an energy revolution, except we’re producing more rather than less carbon dioxide.”

The fleet amounts to a total capacity of 1600 MW and may be bundled or sold separately he said, adding, “We’re evaluating interested bidders, including candidates outside of the EU. The correlation between oil and gas prices has been lost. Under these conditions, gas plants have lost profitability.”

Anzengruber also confirmed reports that the company is seeking to buy Kelag Kaerntner Elektrizitaet’s 10 percent stake in Verbund’s hydropower unit, which would boost ownership to 90 per cent.

Verbund’s share price has fallen 14 per cent in 12 months following impairments and profit warnings.

A decision to sell, mothball or close the company’s Mellach gas-fired facility in southern Austria, with a book value of EUR144m, could be taken in ‘‘weeks or months,” said Anzengruber.

A Verbund spokesperson confirmed to Power Engineering International that the company was targeting buyers for particular French plants in its portfolio.

“As generation from gas is currently under massive pressure, Verbund is seeking to optimize its thermal portfolio.  The two french CCGTs in Pont-sur-Sambre and Toul are currently held for sale.“

Gazprom said that it would bid for Verbund’s French plants alone or in partnership with Vitol Group SA, the world’s largest independent oil trader. The company is also targeting Austrian power assets that could run on Gazprom gas.

Verbund’s Anzengruber said it was unlikely that Russian gas supplies to Europe would be disrupted over Ukraine tensions.

Rising gas prices in Europe have led utilities from RWE AG to EON to shut generators fired by the fuel as the falling cost of pollution makes coal plants more profitable to operate, even though they produce twice as much greenhouse gas.

80 per cent of Verbund’s power generation currently comes from hydroelectric power with wind and thermal power occupying 10 per cent each of the company’s activities.

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