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Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman

Germany utility RWE has agreed to sell its oil and gas production unit DEA for $7.1 billion  including debt to a group of investors led by Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman.

RWE has debt of more than $40 billion.

It has been seeking asset sales and cutting jobs to stay afloat.

“This agreement is a major milestone in delivering our announced strategic realignment of the group,” RWE’s Chief Executive Peter Terium said in a statement. “In addition, it is a further and essential step towards improving our financial strength.”

DEA operates in 14 countries and employs about 1,400 people.

It owns interests in about 190 oil and gas licenses or concessions in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

The buyer of DEA is Luxembourg-based LetterOne.

It was formed last year by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman.