The EU’s antitrust (monopolies) regulator, the Commission for Competition, is investigating French utility EDF's bid for a majority stake in Areva's nuclear arm. The investigation centres on whether or not the deal would hit competition and innovation in the nuclear services market.
As it stands the proposed share purchase would see state-owned EDF acquire 51 to 75% of Areva NP, which designs, makes and services nuclear reactors. The sale is part of loss-making Areva's rescue plan.
By 29 May the Commission/s competition arm will decide to either clear the deal, with or without conditions, or alternatively open a full-scale, four-month investigation.
The Commission has asked competitors and customers how they believe the share purchase would affect prices, innovation and quality, and stated that they must provide feedback within a week.
Innovation has become a key focus for regulators seeking to ensure that the pipeline of key products and technologies can continue to flow after key companies are taken over by rivals. Regulators would also want to know if other suppliers would be able to step in if New Areva NP decided only to provide services to EDF once the deal was completed. They are also looking at whether other suppliers would have enough customers in the EU should EDF decide to use only New Areva NP for nuclear services for nuclear steam supply systems.
The regulators see Areva competing with Ansaldo Energia (Italy), Equipos Nucleares SA (Spain), South Korea's Doosan and Russia's Rosatom, and, depending on how and if Westnghouse emerges from its current Chapter 11 status, that supplier too. The question is whether there would be enough suppliers to meet demand in Europe after the EDF/Areva merger.