UK business newspaper The Financial Times reports that EDF plans to sell as much as €10bn of assets over the next five years to shore up its balance sheet in preparation for the expensive process of building nuclear reactors in the UK.
In the frame are EDF’s exploration and production operations of Edison, its Italian subsidiary, as well as its stake in American nuclear group CEGN, as part of efforts to maintain its credit rating.
News of the disposal plan — first flagged up by Les Echos — comes as China’s president Xi Jinping visits the UK. The visit is widely seen as the platform for EDF and Chinese investors to agree a commercial pact on the construction of Hinkley Point C, the first of the new plants.
The two investment partners have been trying to strike a deal on their share of investment in the £24bn Hinkley Point project in Somerset, UK, with a team led by China General Nuclear Power Group reluctant to raise its interest beyond 30%. Through two state-owned nuclear energy companies, it will invest billions in the Somerset plants. As a sweetener for the deal it has been offered permission to construct its own reactors – using as-yet unapproved Chinese technology – in due course at Bradwell in Essex, a decommissioned nuclear site owned by EDF.
In all the prospective arrangement covers three projects – Hinkley in Somerset, Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex. Talks, which are still going on to settle the final important details, have revolved around the size of the stakes the Chinese group will take in Hinkley and Sizewell.