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CIVIL NUCLEAR
France's EDF stands by UK nuclear plant timetable
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) March 30, 2016


Husband of Areva's ex-chief charged with insider trading: source
Paris (AFP) March 30, 2016 - French authorities have charged the husband of French nuclear giant Areva's former boss Anne Lauvergeon with insider trading as part of a probe into its 2007 purchase of a Canadian uranium mining firm, a legal source said Wednesday.

Energy sector adviser Olivier Fric was charged on March 23 after the finance ministry's intelligence unit homed in on him, a source told AFP.

The ministry unit known as Tracfin suspected he was able to take advantage "of information which the other stock market players didn't get" on Areva's purchase of the uranium miner Uramin, the source added.

The unit had been investigating the buying of Uramin shares by a Swiss company that Fric and an associate owned.

A ministry document indicated that shares had been bought between May and June 2007, shortly before the official June 15, 2007 announcement of a takeover of Uramin by Areva.

Five days later, the shares were resold as a bloc, leading to a net profit of nearly 300,000 euros ($340,000 at the current rate).

Fric was also suspected of wanting to hide the operation via bank accounts that did not show he was the holder.

His lawyer denied Fric had profited from inside information.

"My client has never worked at Areva nor for Areva," lawyer Mario Stasi told AFP.

"He has never been the beneficiary of any information on the management or strategy of the group which isn't publicly available."

Lauvergeon, Areva's former chief executive who ran the firm when the sale took place, has told the Parisien newspaper that "confidentiality rules at Areva were very strict".

The charges against Fric are part of a wider probe into the $2.5 billion (1.8 billion euros at the time) purchase by Areva of Uramin at a height of demand for enriched uranium.

Areva was later forced to revalue its Uramin uranium mines to only 410 million euros.

Several mines in Africa were never run.

Anne Lauvergeon, 56, was a key economics advisor to the late French president Francois Mitterrand before being named to head nuclear energy agency Cogema which she merged with Framatome to form Areva. She left Areva in 2011.

She has been included in Forbes's list of the world's most influential women.

She currently heads a government-appointed "Innovation Commission".

French power company EDF said on Wednesday it is not planning any delay in the construction of the controversial Hinkley Point nuclear plant which is to go onstream in 2025.

The Financial Times, citing an internal white paper, said engineers at the utility had called for at least a two-year delay in the project and recommended a redesign of the reactor technology.

Hinkley Point, which EDF is to build in partnership with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), will be Britain's first nuclear power plant in decades and is to provide seven percent of its energy needs by 2025.

With a projected cost of 18 billion (23.2 billion euros, $25.5 billion) it will also be one of the world's most expensive nuclear power plants.

EDF said in a statement that "unfounded rumours and fanciful information" had been published concerning Hinkley Point in recent days.

"EDF denies these rumours, confirms that the date for the first reactor going online is fixed for the end of 2025 and that no delay is being envisaged," it said.

It said "this anonymous press campaign" was hurting EDF's interests and those of its subsidiaries and staff.

Questions have been raised about the financial viability of the project as EDF, 84-percent owned by the French state, is struggling with a debt pile of more than 37 billion euros.

EDF has reportedly asked the government to help it finance the contested plan to build Hinkley Point, and French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said this month that the French government was willing to inject fresh capital into the energy giant if necessary.

He subsequently said that EDF would take a final investment decision on the plant by early May.

Also this month, EDF's finance chief resigned, with a source close to the project saying he stepped down over a disagreement about Hinkley Point.

On Wednesday, an EDF board member representing staff, Christian Taxil, said in an open letter that at this point he would not vote in favour of the project.

"The price of the project continues to rise and the design still hasn't stabilised" as the new model reactor has yet to enter service.

Moreover, "EDF's financial situation is already strained" and has been weakened by "particularly bad market conditions".

mpa-sp/rl/hmw

EDF - ELECTRICITE DE FRANCE

CGN Power


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