France hopes to place state-run EDF’s debt-laden and capital hungry nuclear business in a holding company that would be fully state owned. It would control a separate entity housing the more lucrative parts of the business and free of its liabilities.
With more nuclear reactors than any country other than the United States, France is keen to ensure a profitable EDF has the money it needs to replace ageing reactors, develop new technology and compete globally.
“(The negotiations) are not at all bogged down,” CEO Jean-Bernard Levy told France Inter radio. He said talks between Paris and the Commission were being held almost daily.
The two sides have wrangled for months over creating a structure in which all of EDF’s businesses would benefit from a form of state aid while its unions oppose the plan, dubbed “Project Hercules”.
Investors would be invited to acquire up to 30% of the shares in that entity under the plan, allowing the state to recoup some of its 10 billion euro cost of buying out minority shareholders.
The government’s ownership of EDF at present is 83.7%.
Levy reaffirmed that EDF’s new EPR reactor at Flamanville was expected to come on line at the end of 2022 but said EDF could not afford further problems if that timetable was to be met.
Work on Flamanville began in 2007, its expected cost has tripled and work is running a decade behind schedule after delays caused by problems including weak spots found in its reactor vessel head. Reporting by Benjamin Mallet; writing by Richard Lough, editing by William Maclean and Jason Neely