* Areva declines to reveal identity of new investors
* Areva pursues talks with other potential investors
* Says refinancing plan sent to EU meets criteria
* Calls shareholder meeting for Feb 3, 2017
(Adds detail on liquidity, bridge loan, Areva TA sale)
By Geert De Clercq
PARIS, Dec 15 Third-party investors have made a
firm 500 million euro ($519 million) offer for a combined 10
percent stake in a new nuclear fuel group that will be split off
from Areva, Areva's Chief Executive Philippe Knoche
said on Thursday.
Under a French government-led rescue, Areva is preparing to
split off its uranium mining and nuclear fuel activities into
NewCo, which will get a 3 billion euro capital increase as part
of a 5 billion euro mainly state-funded cash injection.
Knoche said NewCo would be one of the top three players in
the global nuclear fuel industry and has a 33 billion euro order
book, worth eight years of turnover.
He declined to identify the number or identity of the NewCo
investors and said talks were continuing with other third-party
investors about the sale of another minority stake in NewCo.
"We are actively pursuing talks with other third-party
investors," Knoche said.
Areva Chairman Philippe Varin said last month that talks
were under way with China's National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC)
and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) about
taking a stake in NewCo.
Sources familiar with the situation have told Reuters in
recent days that talks were progressing well with Japan's MHI
and JNFL, which manages Japanese nuclear fuel recycling plant
Knoche said that talks with Kazakh investors were not active
at the moment. French media have reported that Kazakh uranium
group Kazatomprom, with whom Areva has partnerships, has also
had talks with Areva about taking a minority stake in NewCo.
Areva said in a statement it had convened a shareholders'
meeting on Feb. 3 to approve a planned 2 billion euro capital
increase for parent company Areva SA, subject to the approval of
the European Commission. It will also call a shareholders'
meeting to approve the NewCo capital increase.
Knoche said the French government had on Thursday sent the
Areva restructuring and refinancing programme to the European
Commission, which needs to vet it to ensure it does not violate
EU state aid rules.
"We cannot anticipate the EU's decision, but the dossier is
complete and meets the criteria," Knoche said.
Areva also confirmed its 2016 earnings guidance for cash
burn of 0.6 billion to 0.9 billion euros.
Areva said the capital increase for its parent company and
the sale of its reactor division to state-controlled utility EDF
will ensure the firm's liquidity in 2017. It said it
would not be drawing upon a 1.2 billion euro bridge loan
obtained early in 2016 from a pool of banks.
However, it said if it were to need cash before completion
of the capital increases, it would request a shareholder loan
from the state, which owns about 87 percent of Areva's capital.
The French finance and industry ministries, in a joint
statement, confirmed the government's commitment to the
refinancing operation and its confidence in Areva's management.
Areva also said that it had agreed on Thursday to sell its
naval propulsion and nuclear research reactor unit Areva TA to a
consortium of buyers made up of French state holding company
APE, state nuclear agency CEA and state-controlled military
It did not say how much the consortium would pay for Areva
TA but said the sales of Areva TA and the already agreed sales
of nuclear measurement unit Canberra, offshore wind group Adwen
and its reactor unit Areva NP are expected to yield combined
consolidated income of around 3.2 billion euros.
($1 = 0.9641 euros)
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Susan Fenton)