The proposed third force in the German power market aimed at challenging the dominance of RWE and E.ON in utility sector may have found a new partner to replace US firm Mirant who pulled out last month. Gaz de France (GdF) said on Monday it has held preliminary talks about the possibility of participating in the new group, provisional dubbed “Neue Kraft”.

A GdF spokeswoman in Berlin said GdF was in talks with the companies in the project, led by Hamburg’s HEW along with Swedish power group Vattenfall and German firms Veag and Laubag.

“If there were possibilities that could be interesting for GdF, we would think it over,” she said. “We are in contact with the parties involved in the project, but these have not reached the stage of concrete negotiations.”

GdF’s top executive for international industrial partnerships, Jacques Deyirmendjian, told journalists in Paris that a gas partner could be beneficial for the fledgling German project, which is due to start up by mid-2003.

GdF is active in the region via its partner Gasag, a local gas distributor, in which both GdF and Berlin city electricity utility Bewag have a 31.57 per cent share each.

An unresolved row over interests in the new group prompted Mirant to pull out at the end of last month. Mirant and Vattenfall have equal control and ownership of Bewag and Mirant’s decision meant Bewag would not continue as part of the consortium.

HEW/Vattenfall declared they would continue to build the new group without Bewag. But the Swedish/German alliance left the door open for Bewag to join later if Mirant changed its plans, as Bewag would bring a crucial mass of retail customers to the project.

State-owned GdF has said it will seek to expand in other European countries and in eastern Germany will bolster Gasag as the bridgehead of its activities.