* GE has offered to sell Alstom wind unit if it wins bid
* Alstom and Areva use different technologies
* Even together, the two would be small player in offshore
(Adds EWA data, industry background)
By Geert De Clercq
PARIS, May 9 France wants state-controlled
nuclear group Areva to take over Alstom's offshore wind turbine
unit if General Electric's bid for Alstom succeeds, a French
paper reported on Friday.
Areva and Alstom both produce offshore
wind turbines and are part of different consortia to build 3,000
megawatts of wind power off the French coast in coming years.
General Electric made a $16.9 billion offer for
Alstom's energy division last week. The U.S. firm's CEO has said
in a letter to French President Francois Hollande that he would
be willing to sell Alstom's wind turbine activities to French
investors if GE winds the bid.
"It would make sense to have one sole French actor in this
industry," Les Echos quoted a government source as saying.
Nobody was available for comment at the industry ministry
and Alstom. Areva declined comment on the report.
On Wednesday, the French government awarded a 4 billion euro
($5.6 billion) tender for two offshore windfarms to a consortium
led by GDF Suez, for which Areva will build 124 of its
new 8 megawatt turbines - some of the largest in the world -
with a combined capacity of 1,000 megawatts.
In 2012, a consortium led by state-controlled utility EDF
won a tender for 1500 megawatts for which Alstom will
build 240 of its 6 MW Haliade turbines.
Some industry specialists say it could make sense to combine
the offshore wind operations of the two, although an Areva
takeover of Alstom's offshore activities would face serious
technological and financial hurdles.
Areva's turbines have gearboxes - by far the most commonly
used technology - while Alstom's new 6 MW Haliade turbine uses
the less common gearless direct-drive technology.
Hit by billions of euros of provisions and writedowns on a
Finnish nuclear reactor project and an African uranium mine,
loss-making for the past three years, and with a credit rating
just one noth above junk, Areva has limited financial firepower
Even together, the two French firms would still be a
relatively small player in this capital-intensive nascent
industry, which strongly depends on government subsidies.
European Wind Energy Association (EWA) data show there was
117.3 gigawatts (1,000 megawatts) of installed wind energy
capacity in the European Union at end-2013, of which 110.7 GW on
land and just 6.6 GW at sea.
A total of 2,080 offshore wind turbines with an average
capacity of 4 megawatts were installed, of which 74 percent by
Germany's Siemens, 12 percent by Germany's Bard, 10
percent by Denmark's Vestas and 4 percent by Senvion, a
unit of India's Suzlon, EWA data show.
Alstom and Areva's new Spanish partner Gamesa each
had only 0.2 percent of the installed base, according to EWA.
Areva and Gamesa in January said they planned to create a
50-50 joint venture for offshore wind. In September, Vestas and
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries also announced an
offshore wind joint venture.
Areva has an installed offshore base of six 5 MW turbines at
the Alpha Ventus wind farm in the North Sea, which has been
operational since 2009.
The firm has two contracts to supply 120 turbines in Germany
and expects to have more than 120 offshore turbines installed
with a total capacity of 600 MW by end 2014.
French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg was meeting
German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel on Friday and was expected
to discuss the Alstom bid.
Siemens is also considering a bid for Alstom's energy unit,
but has made no comments about what it would have in mind for
the two firm's offshore wind activities.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Keiron Henderson)