By Andres Gonzalez, Emma-Victoria Farr and Tom Käckenhoff
FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) -Spanish infrastructure investor Asterion said on Friday it has agreed to acquire German utility Steag in a deal valuing the business at around 2.6 billion euros ($2.81 billion), committing to the power company's transition into a green energy producer.
Asterion outbid Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, according to four sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Asterion Industrial Partners is an infrastructure fund active in the fields of energy, telecommunications and mobility, with investments worth around 5 billion euros ($5.39 billion).
Kretinsky, who was vying to buy Steag through his energy holding company EPH, teamed up to bid with Germany's RAG foundation, which helps Germany transform coal mining regions into areas for renewable energy, according to the sources.
The Czech billionaire, who built his wealth in the energy industry, has recently embarked on an acquisition spree in Europe. He has already struck a deal to purchase struggling French retailer Casino and is currently in talks to become a shareholder in the IT consulting company Atos.
Steag still operates six coal power plants in western Germany and will require significant investment in its aim to transform into a renewables company.
Asterion said it is supportive of German government plans to decommission coal plants and will invest to transform Steag into a green energy producer.
It has also committed to keeping Steag's corporate headquarters in Essen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Approval from competition authorities is expected by the end of the year, according to a news release from Steag's previous owners, the consortium Kommunale Beteiligungsgesellschaft (KSBG), which represents the municipal utilities in the cities of Bochum, Dinslaken, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen and Oberhausen.
($1 = 0.9264 euros)
(Reporting by Emma-Victoria Farr, Andres Gonzalez Estebaran, Tom Kaeckenhoff and Jan Lopatka; writing by Rachel More; editing by Susan Fenton and Jason Neely)