January 23, 2009 / 7:37 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 3-Siemens could sell Areva nuclear stake

* Siemens expected to announce planned sale on Tuesday

* Confirms board to discuss Areva contracts

* Siemens shares down 3.8 pct, Areva up one pct

(Adds German government comment, background)

By Benjamin Mallet and Irene Preisinger

PARIS/MUNICH, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The board of German industrial group Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE) will meet on Monday to decide on the future of its stake in a unit of France’s Areva CEPFi.PA that it obtained in a nuclear tie-up a decade ago.

If the board decides to sell it would mark a further narrowing of the corporate focus of the once sprawling German conglomerate and could provide the starting shot for a restructuring of the French nuclear industry.

French financial newspaper Les Echos said on Friday that Siemens would sell the stake in Areva NP, which it said was worth an estimated 2 billion euros ($2.59 billion).

Siemens, which holds a sale option on the stake, has chosen to exercise this because it felt the investment gave it insufficient say in the company’s strategic development, the newspaper said.

Areva and the French economy ministry both declined to comment while a German government spokesman could not confirm the report.

Areva specialises in the design and construction of nuclear power plants as well as fuel supply and maintenance.

Siemens had no comment but said its supervisory board would be looking into its contracts with Areva on Monday, ahead of the annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday.

DECADE OLD DEAL

Siemens has a 34 percent stake in Areva NP after a deal in December 1999 when it merged its own nuclear power plant unit with French state-owned Framatome.

The French later merged various nuclear activities such as Framatome and Cogema, into Areva and also acquired the T&D power distribution activities from industrial group Alstom (ALSO.PA).

But in recent years, with the state trying to cut the country’s financial debt and with Areva actively competing on a growing global market for nuclear power stations, there have been discussions about the future capital make-up of Areva and the Siemens stake did not make matters easy.

Alstom, which was pulled from the brink in 2003 with a state-orchestrated financial bail-out, has publicly declared its interest in a tie-up with Areva in order to create a French group capable of building the entire range of power generators from wind, to water, coal, gas and nuclear.

Construction to media group Bouygues (BOUY.PA), which has a 30 percent stake in Alstom and is headed by a friend of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, is also interested in such a tie-up.

But Areva head Anne Lauvergeon — dubbed Atomic Anne or Queen of Nukes in news papers — wants to keep Areva independent. The decision is up to the French state.

Areva is not without friends. Energy group Total (TOTF.PA) has a one percent stake and EDF (EDF.PA) owns 2.4 percent. Areva and it produces nuclear fuel in Japan with Mitsubishi Heavy (7011.T).

Its main rivals are GE (GE.N) and Toshiba Corporation’s Westinghouse Electric.

Shares in Siemens were 3.8 percent lower at 41.79 euros at 1200 GMT, while Areva was up 1.04 percent at 331.41 euros.

Sarkozy said last June a decision over the future of the Siemens-Areva alliance would have to be taken in 2009.

Reporting by James Mackenzie, Dominique Vidalon and Irene Preisinger; Additional reporting by Nathalie Meistermann; Editing by David Cowell

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