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INTERVIEW-Finland's Fortum in the hunt for CHP and hydropower plants
September 5, 2017 / 2:21 PM / 3 months ago

INTERVIEW-Finland's Fortum in the hunt for CHP and hydropower plants

* Has cash to spend after sale of distribution networks

* Also looking to expand in nuclear services

* Not looking at wind, solar, or big Russian deals for now

By Lefteris Karagiannopoulos and Jussi Rosendahl

HELSINKI, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Finnish utility Fortum is looking to spend its multibillion-euro cash pile on combined heat and power plants (CHP) and hydropower assets in Europe, as well as expanding in nuclear services, its chief executive told Reuters.

After selling its distribution networks in 2015, state-controlled Fortum was left with about 10 billion euros ($12 billion) of cash. So far, it has only spent about 20 percent and some investors are getting impatient for action.

“We want to buy companies with existing cash flows that are within our existing competences and relatively close to our home markets in Europe,” CEO Pekka Lundmark said in an interview.

He added Fortum, whose main markets are electricity generation and district heating, was not targetting wind and solar assets for now as their “expected cash flows are very far down the road.”

Lundmark declined to comment on potential targets.

Analysts have suggested Finland’s Pohjolan Voima, which has 12 hydropower stations, and the Swedish hydropower assets of Germany’s Uniper’s as candidates.

Inderes Equity Research analyst Petri Gostowski said Fortum could look at a deal around 3.0-3.5 billion euros in size.

Lundmark added, however, the company would not pursue a large-scale deal in Russia.

“We are not going to start any multibillion investment project in Russia at the moment. For our existing investments ... due to currency devaluation we got half the cash flow we expected in euro terms.”

NUCLEAR SERVICES

Lundmark said Fortum was unlikely to invest in new nuclear reactors, but it was looking at expanding in nuclear services, including decommissioning.

“Many of the 449 reactors that are in use at the moment will reach their end of life (in coming years). They will need services, tools, decommissioning ... This is something we are looking at,” he said.

Fortum has stakes in eight operating nuclear reactors in Finland and Sweden, with net capacity of about 3 gigawatts (GW), and is participating in projects for two more Finnish reactors that are due to start operating in 2018 and 2024.

The company already offers some nuclear services and products, including supplying materials to purify waters around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant following its 2011 disaster.

It is not alone in targeting decommissioning, however.

German utilities E.ON and EnBW have both set up dedicated decommissioning units recently, though they haven’t announced any contracts yet.

French water and waste utility Veolia has also started selling nuclear dismantling and decommissioning services in recent years, while France’s EDF is expected to enter the business following its acquisition of Areva NP. (Additional reporting by Geert De Clercq in Paris; Editing by Mark Potter)

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