December 15, 2016 / 5:53 PM / in a year

UPDATE 2-Investors offer 500 mln euros for 10 pct stake in Areva's nuclear fuel spin-off

* 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 (Reuters) - 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 Rokkasho-mura.

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 shipyard DCNS.

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)

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