March 1, 2012 / 6:17 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-Areva swings to 2.4 bln eur loss for 2011

(Adds detail, background)

PARIS, March 1 (Reuters) - French nuclear reactor builder Areva reported a net group loss of 2.4 billion euros ($3.20 billion) on Thursday, hit by a well-flagged charge to cover project delays and cancelled orders in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The state-owned group, which is under new management since the ouster of controversial former chief Anne Lauvergeon last year, also reiterated revenue and profit targets for 2012-2016.

New CEO Luc Oursel had warned in December the company would post an annual operating loss of 1.4-1.6 billion euros, tied to a disappointing performance at its African uranium mines and delays at a ne xt- generation nuclear power plant in Finland.

The company missed its own forecasts, however, posting an operating loss of 1.9 billion euros for 2011 . All its divisions posted operating losses aside from its “back end” unit, which offers recycling and clean-up services.

Areva’s group-share net loss was 2.42 billion euros, compared with a 2010 profit of 883 million euros. Its order backlog rose 3.1 percent, to 45.6 billion euros, while revenue fell 2.6 percent, to 8.87 billion.

Areva has been grappling with construction delays at two of its ne xt -generation reactors, while the Fukushima crisis has sparked a global debate about the future of nuclear power and led some governments to review their energy mix.

The company has also written down the entire value of its $2.5 billion UraMin acquisition, made in 2007, when uranium prices were riding high on the back of buoyant demand for nuclear power .

A n internal inquiry into the acquisition of UraMin’s three southern African mines -- which have yet to produce uranium -- showed the takeover was badly managed but did not uncover any fraud, as some had feared.

The company is targeting at least 1.2 billion euros in proceeds from asset sales in 2012 and 2013. In December it announced the sale of its stake in mining and metals group Eramet for 776 million euros and last month said it had reached an agreement with French utility EDF on a mining project.

Since Oursel took over he has set out to improve ties with EDF, which is Areva’s main client.

The two groups fell out after the loss of a landmark project in Abu Dhabi in 2009, which led to public disputes between EDF head Henri Proglio and Areva’s former head, Anne Lauvergeon.

Oursel has been told by the French government to improve profitability and reach a double-digit operating margin by 2015 at the latest, from a first-half operating margin of 1.6 percent.

Areva’s “Action 2016” plan comes after several countries abandoned or cut back plans for nuclear energy after Fukushima -- Germany has decided to close all its reactors by 2022 and Italy voted in a referendum to ban nuclear for decades. ($1 = 0.7501 euros) (Reporting by Lionel Laurent; Editing by Christian Plumb)

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