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France to sell part of Areva nuclear group


Latest update : 2009-06-26

According to a report, France is considering selling 15% of its nuclear energy group Areva to investors in Asia and the Middle East, according to the Financial Times.

AFP - France will sell a chunk of its nuclear energy group Areva to investors in Asia and the Middle East in a bid to finance the development of a jewel in the country's industrial crown, a report said Friday.

The Financial Times said the government was preparing a capital increase for the group and was considering selling 15 percent of it to raise two billion euros (2.8 billion dollars).

The move would leave the French state with 75 percent of Areva, a world leader in nuclear power with manufacturing facilities in 43 countries, as opposed to the current 90 percent.

The reported move comes amid growing interest in nuclear power around the world, sparked by fears of climate change, worries about the reliability of supplies from the Middle East and Russia and record high oil prices in 2008.

France produces around 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and President Nicolas Sarkozy has been active in trumpeting his country's know-how to win French companies new business abroad.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Areva's Japanese partner, is set to take a stake in the French company, said the FT, citing unnamed people with knowledge of the situation.

MHI said it had not received an offer to buy a stake but told AFP it was prepared to study such a proposition.

The French government is also in talks with sovereign wealth funds such as Mubadala of Abu Dhabi over their participation in a capital increase, which will be launched later this year, the FT said.

Areva needs between eight and 10 billion euros by 2012 to fund its investment programme, according to the business daily.

The newspaper said Areva's supervisory board was due to meet Tuesday to discuss the group's strategy and investment needs over the next three years after which it was expected to announce plans for a capital increase.

The group will also announce the sale of its T&D transport and distribution subsidiary, which supplies equipment to power grid operators, to fund the development of the company, the FT said.

Jean-Cyril Spinetta, the newly appointed chairman, had concluded that the business is not a core interest, in line with the government's view that Areva should focus on nuclear power, it added.

A source close to Areva told AFP that "we are heading towards a capital increase and the probable sale of T&D."

Areva, contacted by AFP, declined to comment on the FT report and on whether a board meeting was planned for next week.

An economy minister spokesman also declined to confirm the FT report, saying only that the state would take the necessary decisions at the right moment to ensure the development of Areva.

More than 40 nuclear reactors are currently being built in 11 countries, notably in Russia.

The International Atomic Energy Agency expects that at least 70 nuclear power stations will be built around the world in the next 15 years, doubling the global supply of nuclear energy.


Date created : 2009-06-26