South Korea's KEPCO in talks to buy Toshiba's stake in UK nuclear project NuGen

FILE PHOTO: A company logo is seen outside the office of NuGen in Whitehaven, Britain February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble

SEOUL (Reuters) - Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) 015760.KS is in talks to buy a stake in the Toshiba-Engie British nuclear joint venture NuGen, chief executive of the South Korean utility said.

Media reports late last year had said KEPCO was in talks with Japan's Toshiba 6502.T and France's Engie ENGIE.PA for a stake in NuGen, which plans to build three reactors at the Moorside site on the coast of Cumbria and expects electricity generation to start in 2025.

Korea Electric Power Corp, or KEPCO, is interested in taking over the 60 percent stake owned by the troubled Japanese company Toshiba and has been negotiating informally, CEO Cho Hwan-eik told local media reporters late on Tuesday.

“We will jump into (the deal) most quickly once its debt, equity structure is determined,” Cho said, adding that nothing had been formalized yet as negotiations between the Japanese and UK governments were not done.

KEPCO is also seen by industry executives as a potential buyer of Toshiba’s U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse. The South Korean firm has said it would consider an approach by Toshiba.

The TVs-to-construction Japanese conglomerate is currently grappling with a multibillion dollar financial maelstrom stemming from Westinghouse’s ill-fated purchase of a U.S. nuclear power plant construction company in 2015.

Toshiba has already put up most or even all of its prized memory chip business for sale to cope with an upcoming $6.3 billion writedown related to cost overruns at the nuclear business and to create a buffer for potential losses down the road.

South Korea, the world’s fifth-biggest user of nuclear power, has developed its own nuclear technology through KEPCO and is keen to export its nuclear reactors. A KEPCO-led consortium in 2009 won a contract to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates, which are under construction.

Reporting By Jane Chung; Editing by Himani Sarkar