* Levy denies EDF to take on CGN’s Hinkley Point risk
* Speaks of French-Chinese solidarity in Hinkley risk
* Accepts auditor criticism of foreign investment
* Says EDF must shine beyond France and Europe (Adds Levy comments about CGN risk, foreign investment)
By Geert De Clercq
PARIS, April 5 (Reuters) - French state-controlled utility EDF will not delay its project to build nuclear reactors in Britain and its Chinese partner China General Nuclear (CGN) will share any risks related to it, EDF’s Chief Executive Officer told French parliament on Tuesday.
Jean-Bernard Levy said the British government did not want to delay the 18 billion pound (22.4 billion euro) Hinkley Point project and that any delay would upset both CGN and the suppliers with whom it has already made contracts.
EDF’s unions and some of its staff have argued that Hinkley Point is too big a financial risk and should be delayed a few years.
Levy said a study he had commissioned showed these risks were manageable.
He did not give a timetable for Hinkley Point. The French government has said a final decision on it is due early May.
Levy denied reports about EDF assuming a higher share of financial risk in the project than its 66.5 percent stake in it.
French media reported last month that EDF had agreed to shoulder part of CGN’s risk should there be cost overruns. CGN has a 33.5 percent stake in Hinkley.
“About the Hinkley Point contract and related risks, a lot of utterly unfounded rumours have been circulating,” Levy told a parliament committee hearing.
He said EDF has put in place “complex” contracts under which CGN would share in the profits as well as the risks.
“If there is any delay, there will be solidarity between Chinese and French partners,” he said.
French weekly JDD has cited a note by former CFO Thomas Piquemal saying that in the case of a 5 billion euro cost overrun, EDF would have to finance 80 percent of it. It also said that in case of a six-month delay, EDF would have to refund several hundred million euros to CGN.
Levy acknowledged criticism by France’s top public auditor about the poor return on EDF’s investments abroad.
“Our foreign acquisitions have not always been very succesful. We often bought companies at the wrong time and then sold them again at the wrong time, after not after having managed these assets well,” he said.
But he reiterated that EDF must expand internationally. In October, Levy said he wants to double the share of EDF’s assets outside Europe to at least 10 percent.
“A big company like EDF must shine beyond France and Europe,” he told parliament. (1 euro = 0.8048 pounds) (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Susan Thomas and Alison Williams)