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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

RWE confirms interest in Bulgaria nuclear plant

German utility RWE is interested in winning a 49-percent stake in Bulgaria's nuclear power plant of Belene, a company official said on Wednesday, denying media reports that it might withdraw.

Holger Bietz, head of RWE Power's Merger and Acquisition unit, flew to Sofia to reassure the Bulgarian government that his company had not lost interest in the 4 billion euro ($6.19 billion) project, Bulgaria's economy ministry said.

Late last month, some German newspapers reported that RWE was considering withdrawing from the project due to various safety concerns.

"We have a team of 75 people going through all the documents so that we can continue and conclude the negotiations," Bietz told reporters after meeting the Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov.

Bulgaria's power utility NEK, which will keep the majority 51 percent stake, has short-listed RWE and Belgian Electrabel, owned by France's Suez for the minority stake in the 2,000 megawatt plant at the Danube River town of Belene.

Industry sources have told Reuters that RWE was the preferred key investor in the plant and that it was also willing to hedge the risk of the investment with Elecrabel.

Bietz said that the company was open at any time for any kind of partnerships but declined further comment.

Bulgaria wants the new nuclear plant to restore its position of a major electricity exporter in the Balkans after it was forced to shut communist-era reactors as a condition for winning European Union membership.

Dimitrov, who had hoped for a quick choice of a strategic investor, now said that it was not "healthy" to fix a deadline for a decision of such importance.

NEK has contracted Russia's state-owned Atomstroyexport, along with France's Areva and Germany's Siemens to build the plant.

The reactors, whose capital costs could exceed 6 billion euros according to some officials and analysts, are expected to come online in 2013-2014.

(Source: Reuters)

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