November 27, 2009 / 4:11 PM / 9 years ago

Total still hopeful on Abu Dhabi nuclear deal

RAMBOUILLET, France (Reuters) - French oil major Total (TOTF.PA) is still hopeful of winning a $40 billion nuclear deal in Abu Dhabi, Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie said on Friday.

“When I work on a project, I have hope until the very end, and I try my best for it to happen,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a Franco-Russian government meeting.

Total is jointly bidding with GDF Suez GSZ.PA, Areva CEPFi.PA and EDF (EDF.PA) for the deal with the United Arab Emirates, which would be the largest ever energy contract in the Middle East for the development of nuclear power plants.

The French consortium, once considered a shoe-in for the bid, has encountered unexpected competition from a South Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Co. and Toshiba (6502.T).

Concerns that France could lose the deal caused EDF’s new chief executive, Henri Proglio, to call for a stronger nuclear industry.

In an interview in Les Echos newspaper earlier this month, Proglio said that EDF could buy into Areva, France’s nuclear reactor maker, to consolidate the industry. He also called the creation of Areva “probably an error.”

He later backtracked on those remarks, saying in a subsequent interview with Le Figaro that he only supported partnerships with Areva.

But Proglio’s comments sparked debate on the soundness of the French nuclear industry and whether it was too fractured to become the standard bearer in nuclear power.

Margerie refused to be brought into the debate.

“I don’t pay attention to the French-centric debates that are of no interest to anyone. Right now we are going to go to the end and we want to win...we are all united in the endeavor,” he said to reporters.

Writing by Nina Sovich and Sophie Taylor; Editing by James Regan

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