UPDATE 1-Nuclear reactor group Areva 1st-half sales rise

Thu Jul 24, 2008 2:32pm EDT

(Adds details from revenue statement, background)

PARIS, July 24 (Reuters) - French nuclear power reactor manufacturer Areva CEPFi.PA reported a 14.8 percent rise in first-half sales on Thursday as a global revival of nuclear power fed demand for nuclear reactors and uranium fuel.

Areva, whose activities range from uranium mining to waste material, said sales rose 16.4 percent on a like-for-like basis to 6.168 billion euros ($9.67 billion).

The state-controlled group, which has repeatedly rejected overtures by French heavy engineering group Alstom (ALSO.PA) to merge their businesses, also said it expects a strong increase in 2008 sales and backlog.

First-half revenue from reactors and services surged 27 percent to 1.466 billion euros, while the company's front-end business -- uranium mining and enrichment -- generated sales of 1.488 billion euros, up from 1.342 billion a year earlier.

Transmission and Distribution, the business bought from Alstom in 2004 that supplies systems to transform and deliver power, saw turnover rise 13 percent to 2.284 billion euros.

Areva said its total backlog stood at 38.1 billion euros as of June 30, up 13.6 percent year on year.

Rising oil prices and concerns about climate change have led many countries to search for cleaner alternatives, including nuclear power, to more polluting traditional sources of energy.

Areva, which is bidding to build nuclear reactors in Britain, the Middle East and South Africa, has said its aim is to increase sales to more than 20 billion euros by 2012 and to capture a third of nuclear reactor orders in the coming years.

The group forecast installed nuclear capacity would increase to 635 gigawatts (GWe) in 2030 from 372 GWe in 2006, including 344 GWe of new capacity and after taking shutdowns into account.

Areva Chief Executive Anne Lauvergeon has said this may translate into orders for 60 new reactors by 2020.

The prospect of these new reactors coming on stream in the next 10 to 20 years has stoked uranium prices, which surged from $7 a pound in 2000 to a record high of $136 last year.

Even though spot uranium prices have since retreated to just under $60 a pound, Areva's mining chief, Sebastien de Montessus, recently told Reuters they should climb again and remain high, fuelled by stretched production capacities and rising costs to develop new projects.

Areva's thinly traded investment certificates closed 1.9 percent lower at 739.42 euros in Paris. (Reporting by Marie Maitre; editing by John Wallace)