Paris looking at Areva capital increase: Lagarde

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The French government is looking positively at taking part in a capital increase for nuclear giant Areva while negotiations for Kuwait to acquire a stake in the company are going well, Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said Wednesday.

"The state is examining in a favourable manner its participation in the opening of the capital of Areva," Lagarde told reporters.

The French government holds 93 percent of Areva and discussions about attracting other investors, among them Kuwait, Qatar or Japan's Mitsubishi, have been underway for some time.

Lagarde added that "the talks, I assure you in this regard, are moving ahead with several investors, those with the Kuwait Investment Authority going well."

Areva's capital increase, set in 2009 at at eight to 10 billion euros (10.4 to 1.30 billion dollars) to fund its investment plans through to 2012, has been delayed two times but is officially due to be concluded by the end of the year.

Asked about the timetable, Lagarde said the government would take "the necessary time" to make "the right decision, at the right price with the right partners."

Recent press reports said talks with Qatar and Mitsubishi, a major player in nuclear power generation, had run into problems.

If the state were to take part in the capital increase by buying up new shares in proportion to its holding, it would emerge with its 93 percent stake intact.

Only if it allows the new shares issued to be sold to outside investors only would its stake decline.

Besides building nuclear power plants, Areva last year emerged as the world's largest miner of uranium, offering a complete range of services across the sector from fuel to energy production.

© 2010 AFP

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