* German govt says German utilities, UK govt ready to sell
* RWE utility says Urenco is not part of core business
* Dutch not selling, want enrichment to remain in safe hands
* Consortium behind ex Urenco exec values firm at 10 bln
By Christoph Steitz and Ivana Sekularac
BERLIN/AMSTERDAM, Jan 22 Germany gave the green
light to its utilities' plans to sell their stakes in Urenco,
clearing the way for a long-awaited tender for the world's
second-largest maker of nuclear fuel.
A consortium behind a former Urenco director told Reuters on
Tuesday it was ready to make a bid for the unlisted uranium
enricher, which it values at around 10 billion euros.
On Monday, sources told Reuters that Areva and Japan's
Toshiba Corp were considering bids for the company, 33
percent owned by the British government, the Dutch government
and Germany's utilities RWE and EO.N.
"The government of the United Kingdom as well as RWE and
EO.N are interested in disposing of their stake," the German
economy ministry said in a written response to questions from a
member of the German parliament. It added that any sale must
respect the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
The Dutch government reiterated its long-held position that
it does not want to sell, but a source familiar with Urenco's
shareholder structure said a sale of the British and German
stakes would be possible if the Dutch authorities are convinced
there is no proliferation risk.
"We are perfectly happy with the current ownership
structure. Urenco is involved in enriching uranium and we think
it is best to keep this knowledge in safe hands," said Esther
Benschop, a spokeswoman for the Dutch Economy ministry.
She added the Dutch government had appointed ABN Amro to
advise it, but said this will focus on how to handle any sale of
the Dutch and German stakes.
She also said the Dutch government - like the German and
British governments - have the right to veto any sale but it had
not used it yet because there was no concrete proposal.
SET UP BY TREATY
Urenco was set up in 1971 under the Treaty of Almelo between
Germany, Britain and the Netherlands, which regulates the use of
uranium enrichment for civil purposes.
Insiders say the three governments can sell their stake, but
ownership of the shares does not provide access to the
ultra-secret enrichment technology and that governments remain
responsible for preventing proliferation.
Germany has already sold its stake to RWE and E.ON, who are
considering offloading it following the country's decision to
stop using nuclear plants for electricity generation.
"Urenco is not part of our core business," RWE chief
operating officer Rolf Martin Schmitz said on Tuesday. He would
not comment on whether RWE planned to sell its stake or was in
talks to do so.
German utilities are preparing for a nuclear-free future
following the government's decision to phase out atomic power in
the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.
According to people familiar with the matter, Urenco and its
shareholders have started to prepare a sales process.
A banking source told Reuters that Urenco is looking for an
investment bank to advise it and that it is preparing due
diligence and an information memorandum for potential buyers.
Two people familiar with the deal said a price of 8-10
billion euros ($10.7-13.3 billion) - or roughly 8-10 times
Urenco's expected 2012 earnings before interest, taxes,
depreciation and amortization - was considered realistic.
A person close to Toshiba said the firm had considered a bid
before Fukushima, adding it had no plan to buy Urenco but that
if it found partners, it might consider a joint bid.
A former Urenco executive said a consortium of companies was
ready to bid for the UK and Germany's combined 66 percent stake.
Patrick Upson, former Urenco technology director and former
chief executive of Enrichment Technology, a joint venture
between Urenco and Areva, declined to name the consortium's
partners but said they would step forward once the tender was
Upson said he valued Urenco at around 10 billion euros
($13.3 billion), depending on the terms of the sale, and said
the consortium would consider buying 100 percent of Urenco if
the Dutch government decided to sell its stake after all.
He indicated that the consortium, which has not yet been
finalised, would consist of industrial and financial partners.
"We do remain in the running, very strongly," Upson told
Reuters on Tuesday, adding that he expected the tender to be
launched around the end of March.
UK media reported in August that Upson was attempting to put
together a consortium to bid for Urenco.
Urenco is the second largest of four major nuclear fuel
producers, behind Russian firm Tenex and ahead of U.S. company
USEC Inc and Areva, according to World Nuclear