PARIS May 21 Anne Lauvergeon, the former chief
executive of Areva, on Wednesday rejected the top
public auditor's criticism of her management of the French
state-owned nuclear group and said she had made no mistakes.
The "Cour des Comptes" last week, in a report published by
French media, criticised Areva's 2007 acquisition of uranium
mine UraMin, on which it had to write down 1.9 billion euros; a
3 billion euro loss due to delays and cost overruns on a reactor
in Finland; and Lauvergeon's exit deal when she left Areva in
June 2011, which it described as excessive.
Lauvergeon, who ran Areva from 2001 to 2011 and who was
ranked as the world's 9th most powerful woman in 2008 by Forbes
magazine, told a news conference "there had been no mistakes".
She blamed the UraMin writedown on the impact of the 2011
Fukushima nuclear disaster on uranium demand and played down
reports that the uranium content of the Africa-based mines are
much lower than the sellers had led Areva to believe.
Asked whether the UraMin acquisition was a wise investment,
she said all investments made just before the financial crisis
had turned sour.
"Anyone who made an acquisition in the first half of 2007,
in any industry, would prefer to not have done it, because
prices have fallen since," she said.
She added that Fukushima was the main reason for the UraMin
writedown, although she did not elaborate on why Areva and other
uranium miners did not write down its stakes in other sites.
"Impairments and writedowns are common at big mining
companies," she said.
Asked about the billions of cost overruns and years of
delays on Areva's EPR reactor under construction in Olkiluoto,
Finland - which was the first of its kind when construction
started in 2005 - she said delays were normal for a new model.
"When one launches a prototype, look at the Airbus A380, the
Boeing Dreamliner, the new Microsoft Windows, there are by
definition cases where there will be cost overruns," she said.
She said that all decisions about Olkiluoto and UraMin had
been approved by Areva's supervisory board and its government
"There was complete agreement about this," she said.
Areva is in the process of changing its governance structure
following the auditor's report, creating a single board of
directors, replacing a two tier structure where an executive
board is overseen by a supervisory board.
The UraMin acquisition is also subject of a preliminary
investigation by France's financial prosecutor for possible
publication of inaccurate or untrue accounts and distribution of
false or misleading information.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Andrew Callus)