Energy Electricity generator seeks nuclear allies

LONDON, ENGLAND - British Energy has invited potential partners to submit proposals to build a new generation of nuclear power stations on its sites.

Bill Coley, chief executive of British Energy, said he had already had informal discussions and was now launching a formal consultation to find several joint venture partners, which may include private equity funds.

Speculation has intensified that the Government is preparing to sell its 65 per cent stake in British Energy. It said in July it was considering divesting the stake and has appointed Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch to review its options. British Energy is expected to talk to EDF Energy of France, and RWE and EON of Germany. All three already sell electricity and gas in the UK and have signalled their interest in participating in the nuclear new-build which is expected to be a key part in the Government's upcoming energy White Paper.

British Energy, which owns the land on which the new nuclear power plants are expected to be build, may also talk directly to the companies which specialise in building the reactors. The main contenders are France's Areva, Westinghouse, sold last year by British Nuclear Fuels to Toshiba of Japan, and General Electric of the U.S.

British Energy may also talk to companies with large electricity needs which want to strike individual supply deals from the new reactors, Mr Coley said. "I have no preconceived ideas about whom we want to partner with,'' he said.

British Energy said earnings before interest, tax and depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) in the nine months to December 31 rose to 775 million pounds from 462 million pounds a year earlier, boosted by higher electricity prices.

The company saw its shares plunge nearly 24 per cent after it warned in October about cracked pipes in Hinkley Point and Hunterston.

Hinkley Point is expected to be open again in early March while Hunterston may be delayed until the beginning of April because it had brought a planned maintenance outage forward.


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