(Adds report on wind-energy partnership)
PARIS, July 5 Utility GDF Suez would
consider a role in an expected French bid to build a
nuclear-reactor project in Saudi Arabia, CEO Gerald Mestrallet
said in an interview with business daily Les Echos published on
The possibility of a role in the Saudi bid, which has so far
been dominated by French utility EDF and reactor
builder Areva, was one of several comments Mestrallet
made indicating the company wants to expand its nuclear business
despite some recent hiccups.
GDF's Belgian unit Electrabel last year halted its two
nuclear reactors there after finding indications of cracks in
the reactor tanks. In May, the utility said it would start work
to restart the two plants.
GDF was part of a consortium, also including EDF, Areva and
oil major Total, which suffered a shock loss of a $40
billion contract in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
Mestrallet said GDF was in talks about a possible bid in
Saudi Arabia, which is considering building 17 gigawatts of
nuclear capacity by 2032.
"GDF is ready to cooperate, on the condition that we are
given the right amount of room," he said.
More broadly, after winning a contract to build a plant in
Turkey, as part of a consortium including Japan's Mitsubishi
Heavy Industries Ltd and Itochu Corporation, GDF is feeling
optimistic about its chances of winning additional contracts, he
was quoted as saying.
At the same time, its goals in the nuclear area remain
measured at a time the company is seeking to sell assets to cut
its debt burden.
"We will never take an entire nuclear project on our balance
sheet," he said. "We will always be in partnerships, at least at
the 50 percent level."
Separately, newspaper Le Figaro reported that GDF and Areva
were "very seriously" considering a partnership to bid for
French offshore wind-energy projects.
GDF and Areva declined to comment, the newspaper said.
(Reporting by Christian Plumb; Editing by Lionel Laurent and