EnBW asset sales could be more than 1.5 billion euros

Germany's third-largest utility EnBW could end up selling more than a planned 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) in assets, the group's new chief executive said on Monday.

"It could certainly be more than that, I don't want to rule it out," Frank Mastiaux told his first news conference as CEO.

High debt and the need for investment in new areas such as renewable energy have forced Germany's three top utilities to launch large asset sales worth a combined 23.5 billion euros. EnBW has said it plans to sell 1.5 billion euros of assets.

Sources told Reuters in July that EnBW and Italian oil and gas group Eni are considering selling their jointly held gas grid unit TerraNets BW, which is valued at 300-500 million euros.

Mastiaux did not say whether the company wanted to divest any grid activities.

"Power grids are a fundamental part in the value chain of this company, with a high share of profits, and you therefore need to think very, very carefully about any transaction in this field," Mastiaux said.

Before joining EnBW, 48-year-old Mastiaux worked for energy groups including BP and Germany's top utility E.ON , where he led the group's renewable operations and international expansion efforts.

EnBW is 46.75 percent-owned by the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Another 46.75 percent is owned by nine of the state's municipalities, while just 0.39 percent of its shares float freely on stock markets.

Along with its larger rivals E.ON and RWE , EnBW has been dealt a massive blow by Germany's decision to abandon nuclear power by 2022.

As part of that decision, which followed Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, 40 percent of Germany's nuclear capacity was immediately shut down, including two reactors operated by EnBW. ($1 = 0.7773 euros)

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Catherine Evans)