UPDATE 2-Areva quits race for Britain's Horizon nuclear project

Wed Oct 3, 2012 10:01am EDT

* Two separate bids submitted

* Winner to be decided in 3-5 weeks

LONDON Oct 3 (Reuters) - France's Areva has dropped out of the race to buy British nuclear new-build project Horizon, the company said on Wednesday, three months after announcing it was bidding for it with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding.

"Areva and CGNPC have suspended their interest in the planned sale of Horizon and did not submit a bid," a spokeswoman for Areva said, without specifying the reason for its withdrawal.

Two other bids were submitted for Horizon on Friday - one from Areva's competitor Westinghouse and its parent company Toshiba, the other from Japanese engineering firm Hitachi and Canadian counterparty SNC-Lavalin, an industry source with direct knowledge of the deals said.

The Horizon project was put up for sale by its German owners E.ON and RWE in March, after Germany's decision to pull out of nuclear power blew a hole in the utilities' balance sheets.

The British government plans huge growth in its nuclear industry, with new power stations expected to come on line by 2025 to replace ageing plants. Horizon owns two nuclear sites in Britain where it plans to build 6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity.

Westinghouse had been expected to bid with a Chinese partner, State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC), for Horizon.

Westinghouse and SNPTC declined to comment.

Hitachi and SNC-Lavalin have previous experience of working together on nuclear projects.

Britain's programme to build new plants has encountered various stumbling blocks, with British utility SSE dropping out of new-build consortium NuGen last year and Japan's Fukushima crisis delaying licensing and making projects more costly.

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