Areva Won’t Endanger Finances to Pursue Urenco Bid, CFO Says

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Areva SA (AREVA), the world’s biggest supplier of nuclear fuel and services, is monitoring the planned sale of uranium enricher Urenco Ltd. and said it won’t endanger its finances to take part in a potential bid.

“We definitively monitor closely the situation,” Areva Chief Financial Officer Pierre Aubouin said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. “But we wouldn’t be doing anything that would hurt our balance sheet.”

German utilities EON SE and RWE AG, the Dutch government and the U.K., which own Urenco together, have said they’d like to sell the centrifuge manufacturer, which competes with Areva as well as Russian and U.S. rivals. Areva and Urenco also have a joint venture that makes enrichment equipment.

Areva, based near Paris, sold 1.2 billion euros ($1.58 billion) of assets last year, and is paring investment and cutting costs to shore up its balance sheet. Areva has suffered from construction delays at a nuclear plant in Finland, soured investments in African uranium mines and nuclear plant closures in Japan and Germany following the 2011 meltdown of atomic facilities in Fukushima.

Aubouin said Areva’s strategy in its 2016 Action Plan doesn’t rely on “massive acquisitions,” adding that the company may purchase “selected” technologies.

The company’s net debt, rated BBB- at Standard & Poor’s, rose to 4.47 billion euros at the end of June from 3.95 billion euros at the end of 2012 as spending and working capital requirements continued to dwarf earnings.

Areva, which is holding talks to sell nuclear reactors to China and India, is confident that European countries like the U.K. will also reinvest in the technology, the CFO said.

The French company is working “strongly” with utility Electricite de France SA to make a third nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, England a reality “in a few months from now, or next year,” Aubouin said.

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