(Releads with confirmation from economy ministry)
FRANKFURT/BERLIN, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Germany said on Thursday it would only agree to sell its one-third stake in uranium enrichment company Urenco if it secured guarantees about nuclear non-proliferation, safeguarding the company’s technology and its economic security.
The German government indicated in December that investor interest in Urenco, the world’s second-largest nuclear fuel vendor after Russia’s Tenex, is being gauged by the firm’s owners.
The governments of Germany, Britain and the Netherlands each own one third of Urenco, but Germany’s stake is held by the country’s two biggest utilities, E.ON and RWE .
Germany could insist on retaining the right to make specific financial and strategic demands following any sale, said Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel in a letter to a member of the Greens party seen by Reuters.
In the letter, Gabriel said talks about the sale with the British and Dutch governments and with RWE and E.ON were taking longer than originally expected.
“That is also proof that all participants are aware that this subject must be treated with great care. Thoroughness must go before speed,” he added.
Safeguards sought by Germany could include intervening in company decisions and laying off board members if there was a risk to nuclear non-proliferation or the protection of sensitive technology, said the letter, first reported by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Gabriel also proposed the right to veto specific decisions about possible contracts over enriched uranium as well as the potential sale of assets owned by Urenco.
Urenco could fetch up to 10 billion euros ($11.32 billion), but the complex ownership structure makes a sale or initial public offering difficult, sources have told Reuters.
“It is especially important that the possible future structure and legal framework of Urenco must represent a balanced overall solution and the public interest of security of supply is guaranteed,” said an economy ministry spokeswoman.
A spokeswoman for RWE said it was “completely normal that governments make special demands on companies that own a very sensitive technology”.
E.ON declined to comment.
$1 = 0.8831 euros Reporting by Christoph Steitz, Tom Kaeckenhoff and Madeline Chambers; editing by Jason Neely and Vincent Baby