Kuwaiti fund to sell Areva shares in bid, stay away from nuclear - sources

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Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) will sell its nearly five percent stake in Areva to the French state as the nuclear group is delisted and will stay away from nuclear investments for now, sources familiar with the situation
told Reuters.

Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund, one of the world’s biggest, paid $712 million (600 million euros) for its 4.82 percent stake stake in 2010, but since then Areva’s stock has plunged as its equity has been wiped out by years of losses.

Following a state-funded 4.5 billion euro rescue and restructuring of Areva, the French state will pay 4.5 euros per share for KIA’s 18.46 million shares, or about 83 million euros, representing an 86 percent loss for the fund.

When it decided to buy the Areva stake nearly seven years ago, Kuwait was one of several Gulf countries considering developing nuclear power to meet demand for electricity and water desalination.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters that the French state had proposed that KIA take equity stakes in nuclear fuel group Areva NewCo and reactor building unit Areva NP, which will both be spun off from the legacy Areva SA in which KIA is the main minority shareholder.

“A proposal was made to KIA but they have not followed up. KIA has no further development projects in nuclear,” a source close to Areva told Reuters.


The source said that as main minority shareholder after the French state - which directly and indirectly owns nearly 89 percent of Areva SA - KIA was kept informed about the restructuring but had no interest in taking part in it in any way and will sell its shares to the French state.

Prior to the delisting of Areva SA, the state has launched a buyout offer that runs from Aug. 1 to 14.

Areva’s uranium mining and nuclear fuel activities have been spun off as Areva NewCo, while its nuclear reactor unit Areva NP is being sold to state-owned utility EDF. Japan’s MHI will buy minority stakes in both units.

The restructuring leaves legacy Areva SA, once the vanguard of France’s nuclear export drive, as an empty shell with mainly the liabilities related to the troubled Olkiluoto 3 nuclear newbuild project in Finland.

KIA officials were not available for comment.

French media have reported that KIA has complained to the state that its investment in Areva in 2010 was based on incorrect company accounts.

The fund has never publicly commented on Areva’s accounts. Former Areva chief executive Anne Lauvergeon was put under formal investigation in May 2016 for her role in the 2007 acquisition of uranium mining firm Uramin, which led to billions of euros of writedowns that contributed to Areva’s downfall.

Lauvergeon has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing.

Next year, Gulf state UAE is set to become the first new nation to use nuclear energy in decades when it starts up the first of four nuclear reactors. Areva had fought hard to win that contract but lost out to South Korea’s KEPCO.