Areva halts trading over nuclear loss

SHARES in Areva France’s state-owned nuclear energy company were suspended in Paris yesterday after losses associated with the Fukushima crisis in Japan took their toll.

The nuclear reactor maker had been expected to take heavy writedowns related to cancellation of orders.

The declining value of UraMin, a Canadian uranium miner bought by Areva in 2007 for €1.9bn (£1.6bn), was also taking its toll.

French industry minister Eric Besson sounded the alarm at the weekend, indicating that Areva was on the ropes. The French state owns 87 per cent of the company.

Chief executive Luc Oursel met with the company’s board yesterday to hammer out restructuring plans which include job cuts in its international operations.

The firm plans to write off €2.36bn from its accounts this year and expects an operating loss for 2011.

Areva said it had asked for the suspension shortly before the market opened yesterday. The NYSE Euronext stock market operator immediately suspended trading.

Areva is a world leader in the field of nuclear energy facilities, but the outlook for the sector has been heavily clouded by a switch in sentiment away from nuclear energy in some countries, notably in Germany, in light of the disaster at Fukushima in Japan.

The group faces a huge exceptional charge that will push it into a loss for the first time in 10 years.

UraMin was sold to Areva just two years after it joined London’s junior stock market with a £120m market value. The French government backed the firm’s decision at the time.

The huge spike in its value in 2007 reflected a $138 a pound price tag for uranium at the time at the time because of upbeat outlooks on the future of nuclear reactors.

However, uranium is now priced at less than $60 a pound as the Fukushima events have led several states to decide that nuclear power is no longer an option for their power production.