Siemens and Rosatom are in negotiations to form a cooperative venture that will strengthen their positions in the nuclear market, which has fuelled speculation that Europe's largest engineering company could create a joint venture with Atomenergoprom, an affiliate of Russia's state nuclear corporation.
The companies have already made a series of joint undertakings, including plans to build a factory in the Voronezh region and increase cooperation with Gazprom.
The projected nuclear partnership has received the blessing of prime minister Vladimir Putin, who used his opening speech at the World Economic Forum at the end of January to suggest that Russia would remain open to foreign investment.
"Our interests on the market of nuclear technologies coincide with those of Siemens," says Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko. "Uniting our potentials will significantly bolster both Siemens' and Rosatom's positions on the world nuclear market."
The two companies are to set up a working group to develop joint projects by the end of April, Siemens chief executive Peter Loscher said. Siemens has already worked with Rosatom on two power plants in Slovakia and a nuclear power station in Bulgaria.
Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov said Siemens could now cooperate more closely with Rosatom because it was divesting from Areva, the nuclear monopoly's direct competitor. But no specific projects, including joint ventures, have yet been discussed.
The talks between the companies follow hard on the heels of Siemens' announcement at the end of January that it is to sell its stake in Areva NP, the reactor subsidiary of French nuclear power giant Areva.
Siemens currently holds a 34% stake in Areva NP, estimated to be worth € 2.0 billion ($2.6 billion), which it will sell to Areva within three years, (under an option governed by the 2001 shareholder agreement) a Siemens statement said.
Siemens chief executive Peter Loscher indicated in the statement that the joint ownership was proving problematic, saying: "We want to play an active role in future developments, and that goes for the nuclear industry. That's why we have taken this initiative."
"For us, nuclear energy remains an essential component in the sphere of sustainable energies," he added.
Although there is claimed to be no political dimension to the deal, according to French business daily Les Echos, German chancellor Angela Merkel has discussed the deal with French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy has not hidden his desire for Areva to buy the stake in the joint venture with the aim of creating a French national champion based on Areva, engineering group Alstom and construction group Bouygues.
Siemens entered the nuclear power industry in 1980 when it worked together with French group Framatome to develop a third generation nuclear reactor (EPR). In 2001, Siemens and Areva grouped their nuclear activities from France, Germany and the United States into one company, Areva NP.
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