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RWE and E.ON seek crucial US clearance for $5.5bn merger

Antitrust clearance vital as E.ON and RWE unit Innogy have vast renewable operations in the US

German utilities RWE and E.ON have filed applications with the antitrust authority in the US for their €4.9bn ($5.5bn) wide-ranging share and asset swap deal that would make the new RWE the second biggest offshore wind operator in the world, and one of Europe’s top renewable energy producers.

The move comes after Germany’s Federal Cartel Office and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority already gave RWE the green light to acquire a minority stake in E.ON, and the European Commission has cleared RWE’s takeover of the renewable generation business of its Innogy unit and E.ON.

The two faces of RWE: green champion and defender of coal

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“We’re on schedule in implementing our transaction with E.ON. The preparation of the integration of the renewables business is also making good progress: The ‘new RWE’ is in sight,” RWE chief financial officer Markus Krebber said at the release of RWE’s first quarter results.

US antitrust approval is vital for the transaction, as both E.ON and Innogy have large and growing American renewables operations.

E.ON’s part of the transaction is also still subject of an in-depth EU investigation, which seems the hardest element in the competition approval process. The European Commission has cited concerns that the deal could reduce competition in gas and power retail markets of four member states, among them Germany.

As part of the deal, E.ON will receive a 76.8% stake in Innogy and a payment of €1.5bn, while RWE will acquire a 16.67% stake in the new E.ON, and take over E.ON’s minority share in two German nuclear power plants (that will be closed soon). These steps are expected to occur in the third quarter.

Innogy boss slams E.ON deal as 'bad news for employees'

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In the second step, E.ON will transfer its renewable energy activities and those belonging to Innogy to RWE, an also Innogy’s gas storage business and a minority interest in Austrian utility Kelag.

RWE in January appointed current E.ON Climate and Renewables boss Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath to become chief executive of the yet-to-be-formed RWE Renewables.

The new RWE is slated to invest about €1.5bn per year in renewables, and 60% of its generation will produce electricity with low or zero CO2 emissions – not nearly enough, climate activists such as striking school students from the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement have pointed out during a protest at RWE’s annual meeting earlier this month.

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