French state-controlled nuclear giant Areva requires investments between eight billion and 10 billion euros (11.2 billion and 14.0 billion dollars) by 2012 to develop its third-generation EPR nuclear reactors.
Areva said recently that it was opening its capital to new investors and would sell a subsidiary to raise funds for massive investments in new nuclear technology to fund its investment programme.
The company also said it was considering the sale of its stakes in French metal mining group Eramet and Geneva-based computer chip maker STMicroelectronics.
“The AREVA Supervisory Board has decided to open up its capital to strategic and industrial partners, to the value of 15 percent, mainly by increasing its capital,” the company said.
“The Supervisory Board has also asked the Executive Board to put the group’s Transmission and Distribution (T&D) division up for sale. AREVA is also considering disposing of its stakes in Eramet and STMicroelectronics,” it said.
The capital opening would appear to reduce the state holding in Areva to some 78 percent from its current level of 90 percent.
The Federal Union of Nuclear Trade Unions (UFSN CFDT) said it opposed the plan arguing that it was “a rampant privatisation of nuclear operations” since it would dilute the state’s share.
Areva needs between eight billion and 10 billion euros (11.2 billion and 14.0 billion dollars) by 2012 to fund its investment programme, notably to develop its third-generation EPR nuclear reactor.
Besides the $11.2 to12 billion, the company also needs an estimated two billion euros to buy out Siemens’ stake in Areva NP, its reactor subsidiary.
Areva is a world leader in nuclear power with manufacturing facilities in 43 countries and President Nicolas Sarkozy has proudly talked about his country’s nuclear know-how to win new business abroad.
The Financial Times reported earlier that the French government was preparing a capital increase and could sell a 15-percent stake to Asian and Middle Eastern investors for two billion euros (2.8 billion dollars).
The FT reported Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Areva’s Japanese partner, was set to take a stake in the French company. MHI told AFP it had not received an offer to buy a stake but would study such a proposal.
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.
France produces most of its electricity from nuclear power and French energy groups like EDF, Total and GDF Suez have previously been touted as possible investors in Areva.
The report 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.
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.