* Areva supervisory board to meet Tuesday morning
* Board set to vote on financing package
* Areva says to unveil plan after 1530 GMT
* Announcement on plan’s main lines, no details - source
By Marie Maitre and Benjamin Mallet
PARIS, June 30 (Reuters) - French state-controlled nuclear group Areva’s CEPFi.PA supervisory board is due to meet later on Tuesday to consider a long-awaited plan to bridge an 11 billion euro ($15.4 billion) funding gap.
Areva’s 15 board members are set to gather in the morning and the company said it would communicate on the outcome of the meeting after the Paris stock market closes at 1530 GMT.
They are expected to adopt a package of financing measures that will include a capital increase, a sale of Areva’s power transmission and distribution (T&D) business, the disposal of minority interests, and debt, several sources have told Reuters.
“What will be announced are the main components of the plan. There will be no figures or details,” a source close to situation told Reuters.
Areva has long called on its main shareholder, the French state with over 90 percent of the company, to give it the means to fund the development of its businesses, which go from uranium mining to nuclear reactors and the recycling of spent fuel.
In 2005 the government shelved a plan to float up to 40 percent of Areva on the stock market, arguing that state control was needed in such a strategic sector. In 2007 President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a review of Areva’s future, as high oil prices stoke up demand for civil nuclear power reactors.
But no decision was made despite swelling financing needs at Areva, which has plans for 9-billion euros of investments by 2012 and must pay at least 2 billion euros to buy back Siemens’s (SIEGn.DE) 34 percent stake in a reactor venture.
The two key elements of the plan will be a capital increase, which Areva has long asked for, and the sale of T&D, which Areva has long rejected before giving in to the government’s demand.
T&D, bought from Alstom (ALSO.PA) for nearly 1 billion euros in 2004 as part of the latter’s rescue plan, is estimated at around 4 billion euros, and has already attracted interest from Alstom and Siemens.
Sources familiar with the matter have also told Reuters that the state is prepared to see its stake diluted, while keeping a large majority holding, by increasing Areva’s share capital or opening it to new entrants such Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) (7011.T) and Middle Eastern sovereign funds. [ID:nLQ618108]
The Financial Times said on Friday that France could sell up to 15 percent of Areva’s capital to “strategic partners” in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere to raise 2 billion euros. MHI said on Friday it would consider buying a stake in Areva if it received such an offer from the French government. [ID:nLQ614590]
Another financing measure would be to divest some of its minority stakes in companies such as Total, GDF Suez, Suez Environnement (SEVI.PA), Safran (SAF.PA), STMicroelectronics (STM.PA) and Eramet (ERMT.PA).
For FACTBOX on French nuclear giants click on [ID:nLR492409] For TAKE A LOOK on France’s nuclear industry click on [ID:nNUKEFR1] ($1=.7143 euros) (Editing by Greg Mahlich)