Vattenfall coal germany.jpg
Photograph: EPA/PATRICK PLEUL

The European Commission on Thursday cleared the way for plans by the Swedish state-owned electricity company Vattenfall to sell its lignite operations in Germany.

"The commission found [that] the deal would not adversely affect competition in the relevant markets," the European Union's executive said in a statement.

Vattenfall in April announced it had found a buyer - a Czech consortium comprised of energy company EPH and its financial partner PPF Investments - for its coal-fired power plants and mines in the east German states of Brandenburg and Saxony.

The sale was part of the utility's move to pull out of that energy sector, amid a shift to renewable resources.

But environmental groups have criticized the sale, saying the coal should remain in the ground to avert global warming.

Under the terms of the acquisition, EPH is to take over assets, including cash, worth 15 billion kronor (1.8 billion dollars), as well as liabilities and provisions totalling 18 billion kronor.

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