Areva may use French fund to help pay for UK nuclear plant - paper

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

PARIS (Reuters) - Areva is in talks with the French government to release some funds set aside for dismantling its nuclear installations in France to help the company finance a new British nuclear reactor, a newspaper reported.

Britain signed a deal with France's state-owned utility EDF in October to build a 16-billion pound nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in southwest Britain, the first new plant in Europe since the Fukushima disaster.

State-owned Areva is taking a 10 percent stake in the consortium that will build the facility, which also includes EDF's Chinese partners China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

Areva wants to ensure the British nuclear project will not impact its debt, which is rated BBB- by Standard and Poors, one notch above "junk" territory. Its debt-to-equity ratio stood at 1.15 at the end of June, according to Thomson Reuters data.

It will need 500 million pounds to finance its share of Hinkley Point, according to one source quoted by the newspaper.

"Talks have started," Areva's Chief Financial Officer Pierre Aubouin told French newspaper Les Echos. "If we obtained this authorisation, this would neutralise the impact on our debt."
A spokesman for Areva had no immediate comment on the matter.

A 2012 French parliamentary report showed it could cost Areva up to 7.1 billion euros to dismantle its nuclear installations, which include the La Hague nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and Eurodif, a uranium enrichment factory.

The funds Areva has put aside for winding up the sites are tied up in bonds and shares and are ringfenced by government decree. Les Echos said the government can authorise exemptions to release some of the funds.

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