PARIS, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Russian nuclear group Rosatom would be interested in taking an equity stake in French peer Areva if the French government allows it, a top Rosatom executive said on Tuesday.
Under a government-led restructuring, 87 percent state-owned Areva will be split up, with its reactor building unit Areva NP being sold to state-owned utility EDF while its nuclear fuel and uranium unit will become a separate company provisionally named Areva NewCo.
Areva, EDF and their government shareholder are looking to sell minority stakes to foreign investors in both Areva units.
Areva has said third-party investors have made a 500 million euro ($520 million) offer for a combined 10 percent stake in NewCo and that talks are under way with China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) about taking a stake in NewCo.
Asked whether Rosatom would consider buying a stake in Areva, Andrey Rozhdestvin, head of Rosatom Western Europe, said Rosatom would be willing to consider a stake in Areva NP as well as Areva NewCo.
“We do not rule this out. If it could help Areva, I think this can be considered,” Rozhdestvin told reporters at Rosatom’s regional headquarter in Paris.
“We have discussed this, but it appears that the state is not very keen on this,” he said.
He said talks are ongoing with Chinese and Japanese potential equity partners, but not with the Russians.
“This is worrying us,” he said, adding that Rosatom has several cooperation projects with Areva and is interested in anything that affects its partner.
“Of course we try, if it is possible, to participate in the resolution of the situation,” he said.
French-Russian relations have been strained by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and over Russia’s role in the war in Syria. French President Francois Hollande has cancelled the sale of warships to Russia, and in October he snubbed the inauguration of a new Russian-built Orthodox Cathedral in Paris.
French conservative Francois Fillon, a leading contender to win the presidential election in May, has said he wants to restore ties with Russia. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)