By Anjuli Davies and Freya Berry
LONDON (Reuters) - Bidders including Borealis, Macquarie and Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (CKI) are lining up multi-billion dollar bids for Fortum's Swedish power grid ahead of a mid-December deadline, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Finland's state-controlled utility Fortum is selling its Swedish power grid, which is seen fetching around 6 billion euros (4.7 billion pounds), as part of a trend among European energy firms to split off their distribution networks to cut debt and focus on power generation and renewable energy.
Around four or five consortia of investors are forming to submit offers for the assets, with indicative bids due mid-December, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter is private.
Keen on regulated energy assets' predictable cash streams, infrastructure investors such as Macquarie; Chinese State Grid; CKI, an investment entity controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing; and Borealis, the infrastructure investment arm of Canadian pension fund OMERS, have been snapping up power and gas grids across Europe in recent years.
In October, Reuters reported that Fortum had launched the sale process, with Borealis teaming up with Swedish pension funds AP1, AP3 and Folksam to bid, and private equity firm 3i's infrastructure fund joining the private equity arm of Goldman Sachs to make an offer.
"A lot of the bidders have been studying this for a long time," said one of the sources.
"It's a very competitive process because there are so few large deals out there at the moment."
Fortum sold its Finnish grid to a consortium of investors led by First State Investments and Borealis Infrastructure for 2.55 billion euros in December 2013. It also divested its smaller Norwegian electricity distribution business in April.
Fortum declined to comment. All of the prospective bidders either declined to comment or could not immediately be reached for comment.
(Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt; Editing by Mark Potter)