CVC pulls out of GE talks over Areva unit-report

PARIS Sun Nov 8, 2009 5:27pm EST

PARIS Nov 8 (Reuters) - Private equity fund CVC has pulled out of talks with General Electric (GE.N) about a possible joint bid for the power and transmission unit of France's Areva CEPFi.PA, a French financial news service reported on Sunday.

Spokesmen for the firms involved could not immediately be reached for comment.

State-owned nuclear reactor group Areva is selling its T&D unit and has selected Japan's Toshiba (6502.T), a consortium led by U.S.-based GE, and French partners Alstom (ALSO.PA) and Schneider Electric (SCHN.PA) as possible buyers.

Binding offers are expected for Nov. 9 ahead of an Areva decision set for Nov. 16.

Citing banking sources, news service Wansquare, a joint venture between the Journal des Finances and Le Figaro newspapers, said that CVC had withdrawn from the GE-led consortium because of disagreements with the U.S. power giant.

The disagreements were over the voting rights CVC would have in the consortium, should it win the bid for Areva T&D and not over financial or industrial concerns, Wansquare wrote.

"To replace CVC, Clara Gaymard (head of GE's French division) is seeking a last-minute alliance with Axa Private Equity," Wansquare wrote.

According to a report in the French business daily Les Echos on Friday, GE was talking to sovereign funds in Singapore, Korea and Qatar about its possible bid for Areva T&D.

An alliance with one of them could reduce CVC's interest and increase that of GE, the paper said.

Economy Minister Christine Lagarde has said the offers for T&D would be assessed on the basis of price, industrial strategy and employment issues.

Areva, in which the French state holds a 91 percent stake, is selling the T&D unit, which analysts valued at between 3 billion and 5 billion euros, as part of an 11-billion-euro plan to fund expansion that includes a capital increase.

Several analysts have told Reuters that initial offers for T&D would not exceed 4 billion euros. (Reporting by Estelle Shirbon in Paris; Additional reporting by Megan Davies in New York; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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