* Areva may set up JVs with EDF for exports, fuel recycling
* Areva could become nuclear holding company with partners
* Consensus growing that Areva, EDF future closely linked
* Source confirms reports on planned 1 bln euro cost cuts
By Benjamin Mallet
PARIS, Feb 5 (Reuters) - France’s Areva is drafting a plan to let utility EDF take a stake in some of its units, giving the indebted nuclear group a capital boost and strengthening the link between the two firms, a source familiar with the situation said.
The source told Reuters that as part of the new strategy, Areva’s new management will present on March 4, the firm is considering setting up joint ventures with EDF to export nuclear reactors and for the treatment and recycling of nuclear fuel.
“This scenario should be a major element of the plan,” the source said, adding there was a growing consensus that Areva’s future will be closely linked to that of EDF.
The project would allow EDF to inject capital into Areva, and let Areva share risk and investments with EDF, which accounted for 30 percent of Areva’s sales in 2013.
Areva had net debt of 4.7 billion euros on June 30, 2014 and its bonds were downgraded to non-investment grade late last year.
The two publicly owned firms - the state has 87 percent of Areva and 84.5 percent of EDF - already have a tight bond after Areva Chairman Philippe Varin was made a board member of EDF late last year.
EDF said last month its new CEO Jean-Bernard Levy is in talks with Chinese utilities CGN and CNNC about developing new nuclear power plants in China, which would pave the way for cooperation between EDF, Areva and their Chinese partners to develop a new reactor model.
The source said Areva’s new strategy could be to lodge some of its activities in separate legal entities in which outside investors could take a stake, with Areva becoming a holding company that manages its subsidiaries with its partners.
Areva, EDF and state holding company and Areva shareholder APE declined comment.
In 2011, the government allowed Areva to set up a separate subsidiary for its mining business, with a view to let EDF and foreign investors take a stake, but no deal was concluded and Areva remains the sole owner of the unit.
The source also confirmed French press reports that Areva planned an additional one billion euros in cost cuts over the next three years. He said this would include cuts in staff costs, savings on purchasing and lower investments. (Additional reporting by Matthieu Protard and Geert De Clercq; writing by Geert De Clercq, editing by David Evans)