Nuclear group Urenco attracts potential buyer

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FRENCH nuclear company Areva is thought to be examining a bid for British atomic fuel producer Urenco.

Areva, which failed to make a bid for the Horizon nuclear new-build project by last month’s deadline, is now weighing up Urenco, according to the Sunday Times.

The firm, which denied in January that it was interested in the assets, did not return calls for comment yesterday.

The British government hired Morgan Stanley last month to look at a fresh attempt to sell its 33 per cent stake in Urenco, as part of a wider privatisation scheme that has already seen Tote and Direct Line taken out of the state’s hands.

German utilities E.ON and RWE, which together also hold one third, are also believed to be keen to sell, though the remaining third belongs to the Dutch government, which is reluctant.

Urenco made €203m (£164m) net income in the first half of the year, chiefly from enriching uranium for use as fuel. Like BAE and EADS, national governments own a stake in Urenco as a national security safeguard.

The assets are expected to be worth several billion pounds.

The sale comes at a time of retrenchment in the nuclear industry, as firms and governments regroup after last year’s Fukushima disaster.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change, which declined to comment, expects the nuclear industry to develop around 16 gigawatts of new capacity by 2025.