UPDATE 1-Nuclear group Areva posts 2.4 pct Q1 revenue rise

Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:38pm EDT

(Adds detail from statement, background)

PARIS, April 26 (Reuters) - Areva, the world's biggest maker of nuclear plants, posted a 2.4 percent rise in first-quarter revenues as growth in reactor services more than offset a decline in its uranium transformation business.

Revenues reached 2.03 billion euros ($2.68 billion) in the quarter, a 1.3 percent like-for-like gain compared with the year-earlier period, the French state-controlled company said in a statement on Thursday.

Areva's order backlog stood at 45.1 billion euros as of March 31, a 3.7 percent increase from a year earlier, when Japan's nuclear disaster had begun to dampen demand for nuclear energy. The backlog was down 1 percent from its level at the end of 2011.

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima, caused by an earthquake and tsunami, led some countries to cut their reliance on nuclear energy, but Areva is counting on demand from emerging economies where energy consumption is booming.

Areva's so-called front end unit, which transforms uranium concentrates into nuclear fuel for power generation, posted a 17.2 percent sales decline to 432 million euros as a uranium enrichment contract with French utility EDF expired.

The backlog nonetheless increased 3.2 percent to 18.5 billion euros, thanks to other contract wins with state-controlled EDF, Areva's key customer accounting for a quarter of total revenue last year.

The services and reactors business increased revenues 5.8 percent to 782 million euros, with maintenance in the U.S. offsetting a decline in Germany. The unit's backlog was up 17.4 percent to 8.71 billion euros thanks to an EDF inspection contract covering 58 reactors.

Areva is also present in renewable energy and as part of a consortium recently won a tender to build one of four wind farms off the French coast.

($1 = 0.7559 euros) (Reporting by Caroline Jacobs)

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