EDF looks for investment partners in UK's first nuclear plant

LONDON // EDF, the French state-backed electricity conglomerate, is likely to look for new investors to help to share the burden of the United Kingdom’s first new nuclear power station for a generation, analysts in London predicted today.

The move is expected after the finance chief of EDF resigned in a row over the £18 billion (Dh93.66bn) cost of building the much-delayed nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in the west of England.

Angelos Anastasiou, a utilities analyst at invesment bank Whitman Howard, told The National he expected the French would “look for anything that broadens the risk. EDF itself does not have the financial muscle to carry this project”.

In October last year, EDF signed over a third of the project to the Chinese utility China General Nuclear Power, with the backing of the British chancellor, or finance minister, George Osborne.

However, it is thought that the French finance chief wanted to find another investor who would take on at least half of EDF’s remaining stake.

Jean-Bernard Levy, the chief executive of EDF, said yesterday he regretted the “hastiness” of the finance director Thomas Piquemal’s departure. The finance chief apparently believed that proceeding with the world’s most expensive nuclear project could threaten the whole group financially.

EDF’s shares fell by more than 8 per cent in early trading today, after it confirmed that Mr Piquemal had quit.

The Somerset power station was supposed to come on line next year, but it now looks like it will be at least a decade late.

Richard Warren, a senior policy adviser at the EEF, which represents Britain’s manufacturers, told The National EDF’s bid to bring in new investors would be difficult to achieve, due to the continuing uncertainty of UK energy policy.

“The constant fluctuation of energy policy is seriously undermining those people who want to invest in the sector. It’s also increasing the cost of capital for the sector, by as much as £12 per household,” he said today.

A spokesman for the government’s department of energy and climate Change reiterated the government’s support for new nuclear facility, telling The National: “Good progress continues to be made.”


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