Suez says prefers industrial role in UK nuclear

Thursday, March 27, 2008

PARIS, March 27 (Reuters) - Suez is interested in an industrial cooperation with British Energy rather than a purely financial investment in the UK nuclear power producer, the head of the French utility said on Thursday.

"If we can play an industrial role, let's talk about it ... but if this is strictly a financial role, then we are not interested," Suez Chief Executive Gerard Mestrallet told reporters on the sidelines of a nuclear conference in Paris.

Mestrallet said Suez was in regular contact with British Energy, but waited to find out the role that the company and the government want partners to play.

"If they say take a stake in British Energy and that's it, then we are absolutely not interested. But if they want to involve us in the development and production of one or several reactors ... then we are willing to have discussions.

"Then we would say yes or no if we think production costs or the location of site suit us or not," Mestrallet said.

Earlier this month, British Business Secretary John Hutton signalled the government's remaining 35 percent stake in British Energy might be sold. Industry sources said the shares had recently been marketed to several energy companies.

British Energy has said it was in talks which could lead to an offer for the 6.5 billion pound ($13 billion) group.

Sources familiar with the situation say Britain's Centrica Plc, Germany's E.ON AG and RWE AG, France's EDF and Spain's Iberdrola are frontrunners for the stake, worth at least 2 billion pounds ($4 billion).

The group, which runs eight of Britain's 10 nuclear power stations, has also been talking to several international power firms about partnerships to build new reactors after the UK government gave the go-ahead to a nuclear expansion.

British Energy has said discussions with interested parties would be both on the company's future and its plans to take a pivotal role in any new nuclear programme.

(Reporting by Marie Maitre and Muriel Boselli; Editing by David Holmes)

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