France’s EDF has created a timetable for potential bidders for the sale of its three distributor network operators (DNOs), which cater to 20 million people in London and the east and southeast of England.

EDF’s draft timeline commits the company to the sales initiation in early December after Ofgem ascertains the DNO’s allowed returns, according to Reuters.

In mid-January EDF will initiate the first round bids and by the end of the initial quarter of 2010 binding bids will be due.

EDF has undertaken pre-leveraging of the DNOs it intends to sell through a £950m bond issue split into three tranches with 7, 22 and 27-year maturities.

Barclays Capital and Deutsche Bank, with support from BNP Paribas, have been hired as financial advisors for the sale.

Institutional investors and infrastructure funds are showing interest in the DNOs, which have a regulated asset value of nearly £4bn, and are seeking partnerships with companies that have experience in operating such network operations.

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By GlobalData

Canada’s Borealis has already partnered with Scottish & Southern Energy, while Canada Pension Plan is keen on joining a consortium.

Infrastructure funds from IFM Infrastructure, 3i and Macquarie are also showing interest, while National Grid is in the process of preparing a bid.

Prior to the sale process, additional combinations may emanate, as infrastructure funds from Alinda, RREEF, Blackstone and GIP are still contemplating participation.