Britain's HSBC to consult on new Bulgarian nuclear plant

16th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's HSBC bank was chosen Tuesday to advise Bulgaria on restructuring and financing its Belene nuclear power plant project in the north of the country, Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov said.

"We have chosen a consultant for Belene and it is Britain's HSBC," Traikov told journalists.

HSBC, Rothschild bank and France's Societe Generale were shortlisted in August by the state-owned Bulgarian Energy Holding to compete in the final phase of the consultancy tender for the long-delayed project.

Bulgaria signed a contract with Russia's Atomstroyexport in 2008 to build the two-reactor plant on the Danube.

But the withdrawal in 2009 of German utility RWE, which held a 49-percent stake in the project, as well as uncertainties about the plant's total cost and funding scheme forced Bulgaria to consider dropping the deal.

During talks in Sofia over the weekend, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin moved to unfreeze the project by reiterating Russia's readiness to fund Belene directly through acquiring a stake, through loans or through offering equipment on lease.

Russia and Bulgaria however still clashed on the plant's estimated cost, with Russia saying it could not build it for less than 6.3 billion euros (8.6 billion dollars) from an initially contracted 3.9 billion euros.

HSBC will now have to review the project and advise Bulgaria on whether it can effectively restructure the deal to make it more efficient or drop it altogether.

It will also be tasked with finding a new European partner to take up RWE's place in the project.

© 2010 AFP

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