(Adds comments from Valio, lawmaker)
By Jussi Rosendahl
HELSINKI Jan 10 Finnish retailer Kesko Oyj
is allowed to walk away from the Fennovoima nuclear
project, an arbitration court ruled on Tuesday, prompting
questions over the Finnish-Russian project's funding and future
Finnish participation is crucial for the project because the
government, addressing concerns about Russia's influence on the
country's energy sector, has set a requirement for 60 percent
Kesko, which owned about 2 percent of Fennovoima at the
time, said in 2014 it wanted out of the project. But
Fennovoima's Finnish owners said it had committed to further
financing for the 6-7 billion euro ($6.4-7.4 billion) plant.
Finland's court of arbitration dismissed that claim on
"This is the end of the case. We are happy with the
decision," Kesko spokesman Lauri Peltola said.
The project has seen several of its original investors opt
out, including Germany's E.ON and Swedish metals firm
Tuesday's ruling may open the door for further departures:
Finnish dairy Valio has been looking to sell its 1.4 percent
stake, but hasn't found a buyer.
"In light of this (ruling), the management will likely
discuss the process over again," Valio spokeswoman Pia Kontunen
The Fennovoima project was close to collapse in 2015, with
the government's ownership threshold seeming out of reach ahead
of a licence deadline.
But state-controlled Finnish utility Fortum
signed up at the last minute, prompting speculation the Finnish
and Russian governments might have influenced the purchase.
Green party lawmaker Emma Kari, who opposes the project,
said local authorities in Helsinki should opt out too due to
rising costs. The Finnish capital owns a small stake via Vantaan
"This ruling places a big question mark on the financial
basis of Fennovoima ... Joining a nuclear project led by
(Russia's) Rosatom is not in the interest of our taxpayers,"
Fennovoima declined to comment and its Finnish owners'
consortium, Voimaosakeyhtio SF, was not available for comment.
Prior to the ruling, the project was 66-percent owned by
Voimaosakeyhtio SF, which includes more than 50 Finnish regional
utilities and other companies, while Russian state-owned nuclear
company Rosatom held 34 percent.
Rosatom, which has been stepping up overseas expansion,
agreed in 2013 to take the stake in the project, and to supply
The move prompted concerns in Finland after the Ukraine
crisis started in 2014, but parliament supported the new plan by
115 votes to 74.
The reactor, which would be Finland's sixth, is due to come
online in Pyhajoki in 2024.
($1 = 0.9427 euros)
(Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)