Westinghouse bidders come and go

24 August 2005

Speculation is mounting that French nuclear giant Areva will drop plans to bid for US reactor vendor Westinghouse.

According to French media reports, Areva is preparing to drop plans to bid for Westinghouse on the grounds that US anti-trust authorities are likely to block the move anyway. Areva is also thought to consider that its EPR model is well ahead of Westinghouse's AP1000 and that Areva is well positioned to pursue on its own its interests in the USA, having an office in the country virtually dedicated to getting an EPR built there. In addition, plans to float Areva might also influence the group’s position, while its state-owned status might have created further problems regarding such an acquisition.

Following the failed bid by China’s CNOOC for US oil group Unocal Corp, analysts have expressed concern that Washington's evident unease with foreign buyers of strategic energy-related companies might also result in a long and drawn out acquisition process for any foreign buyer.

Areva had said it was studying whether to bid for Westinghouse after the firm's parent group, the UK’s BNFL, announced that it was exploring the possibilities of a sale. BNFL has subsequently received interest from between 10 and 15 potential buyers. Among them are thought to be Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the USA's General Electric. South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries has also expressed a firm interest in Westinghouse having submitted a letter of intent. BNFL says it will take around six months to study the bids.

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