Tuesday, 22 September 2009

EDF in talks with E.ON as it aims to cut €37bn debt

EDF, the heavily indebted French power group, is close to agreeing a big asset swap with E.ON, its German rival, but it played down reports yesterday that it was also considering the sale of a 20 per cent stake in British Energy, the UK’s nuclear generator.
The company, which is leading the drive to build the next generation of nuclear reactors in Britain, has begun a sweeping review of its businesses as it aims to cut its €37 billion (£33.5 billion) debt pile.
In May, it sold a 20 per cent stake in British Energy, which it bought only a year ago, to Centrica, the British Gas owner, for €2.5 billion.
Yesterday, officials denied a report in La Tribune that EDF was considering selling a further 20 per cent stake in the company to help to fund its plans to build four nuclear reactors in Britain by 2025. However, they did not rule out the possibility.
A spokesman said that the group was examining a range of possible disposals to fulfil its aim of raising €5 billion from selling businesses by the end of 2010. He said that a sale of the British Energy stake was not being actively discussed “at this point”.
EDF, which is 82 per cent-owned by the Government, said that it was in talks with E.ON about a deal that would involve the Paris-based group loosening its grip on France’s nuclear industry.
Under the terms of the deal, E.ON would buy stakes in French nuclear power stations in exchange for EDF securing access to German coal-fired power plants.
The deal may soothe concerns of the European competition regulator that EDF and E.ON are too powerful in their domestic markets. EDF operates 58 nuclear reactors in France, generating more than 80 per cent of the country’s electricity, and has businesses in Italy, Germany and China.
Its debt swelled after several deals, including the £12.5 billion acquisition of British Energy in September 2008 and the $4.5 billion purchase of 50 per cent of Constellation Energy, an American utility.
Its finances are under extra strain because the Government vetoed its calls for big rises in retail energy prices to fund its future expansion plans.
Source: The Times

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