Dutch Court Rules Stake In Nuclear Plant Can't Go To RWE

Monday, January 24, 2011

AMSTERDAM (Dow Jones)--The Dutch Supreme Court Friday upheld an interim injunction that prevents German utility RWE AG (RWE.XE) from obtaining a 50% stake in the only nuclear power plant in the Netherlands.

The ruling is a setback for RWE, which acquired Dutch utility Essent in 2009, but a final decision on whether RWE will eventually gain control of the stake in the Borssele reactor could still take years.

Dutch energy company Delta Energy, which owns the remaining half in the power plant, had requested the injunction to prevent the transfer of the stake to RWE after its purchase of Essent.

Delta has said that Essent's stake in the Borssele plant must remain in public ownership, referring amongst other things to an article in the shareholder agreement of EPZ, the company that operates the reactor for both utilities.

RWE Friday said that it still believes it is entitled to acquire the 50% stake in EPZ, adding that the main legal proceedings "will be a forum to discuss all legal questions concerned", including if ownership of Borssele must stay in public hands.

"We still believe that RWE would be a good partner for Borssele, and that both EPZ and Delta would gain from that partnership," the company said.

RWE, which as Europe's largest corporate emitter of carbon dioxide is keen to increase its share in nuclear power generation and renewable energies to reduce its CO2 footprint.

The ongoing legal dispute prompted RWE to carve out the stake in EPZ when it acquired Essent from a group of provinces and municipalities in 2009.

At present Essent's stake in the plant is still owned by that group of provinces and municipalities.

By carving out the stake in EPZ, the purchase price for Essent was lowered by around EUR1 billion, RWE said at the time. It had added that it would set aside the cash as it continues to seek acquisition of the nuclear power plant stake.

RWE operates and co-owns several nuclear power plants in Germany and is seeking to build new nuclear plants abroad, including the U.K.

However, the company Thursday said it has decided to withdraw from a consortium that plans to build a nuclear reactor in Romania, citing the lack of a clear regulatory framework and uncertainty about future electricity demand.

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