Turkey's Cengiz in talks with Russia's Rosatom to buy nuclear plant stake - source

ANKARA, April 27 (Reuters) - Turkish construction firm Cengiz is in talks about buying up to 49 percent of the $20 billion Akkuyu nuclear power plant being built by Russia’s Rosatom, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The Russian-owned project, Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, has been complicated by the deterioration in ties between the two countries after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over the Turkey-Syria border in November.

In December, Turkish energy officials said state-owned Rosatom had stopped construction work on the project. President Vladimir Putin subsequently said the decision on the future of the plant would be purely commercial.

“Talks have been continuing for some time with Cengiz Construction on the sale of up to 49 percent of Akkuyu,” the source told Reuters.

Cengiz last year won a tender to build some of the Akkuyu plant’s structures.

Rosatom declined to comment on the issue.

The sale of a 49 percent stake is a provision of the inter-government agreement to build the plant signed by the two countries in 2010. Talks on the sale have been held with other investors previously and could be held again, the source said.

He said there was no timescale for the sale and there was no foreign investor interest at the moment, adding that there was no political dimension to the sale.

“The sale of the shares has nothing to do with the political process between Turkey and Russia following the downing of the plane,” he said.

Keen to wean itself off an almost complete dependence on imported energy, Turkey in 2013 commissioned Rosatom to build four-1,200 megawatt (MW) reactors at Akkuyu, near Mersin on the Mediterranean coast.

The Akkuyu plant is not scheduled to come on online before 2022 and has faced delays due to regulatory hurdles and Moscow’s financial woes.

In 2013, the Turkish government picked a Japanese-French consortium to build a second nuclear plant at an estimated cost of $22 billion. (Additional reporting by Svetlana Burmistrova in Moscow; reporting by Orhan Coskun; writing by Daren Butler; editing by Humeyra Pamuk and David Clarke)