RWE weighs up sale for UK co-owned Urenco

Sunday, October 16, 2011

German energy giant RWE has appointed advisers for a strategic review of Urenco the nuclear power company it co-owns with the British and Dutch government.

The move could press the UK Government to formalise its own strategy on disposal of the company, which is expected to net UK taxpayers 1bn.

Urenco is one-third owned by the UK Government, with the rest split between the Dutch government and two German utilities, Eon and RWE.

Last month RWE, which in the UK also owns NPower, said it was increasing its sell- off programme from 8bn (7bn) to 11bn in the next three years. The company, which has about 27.5bn of net debt, was put under further pressure by the German government's decision to phase out nuclear energy in the aftermath of the Japanese power plant disaster

RWE is also in final negotiations with Gazprom over a potential split of its assets and operations, including Npower in the UK. The deadline for any agreement with Gazprom runs out on October 15.

The UK energy company could be split up and sold to other buyers, such as Centrica, if no deal is agreed with Gazprom. The decision to look at Urenco follows RWE's current strategy, said an insider, who added the asset remained "a very complex beast to sell".

Any disposal needs the consent of the other shareholders and the tripartite committee. In the UK, this means satisfying national security concerns over nuclear enrichment.

But this is the first time the German shareholder has assessed its ownership, which could trigger a final decision in the UK. The Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The Government is currently assessing its options with regard to the UK's stake in Urenco."

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