Restructuring around the world proceeds apace.

ABB Alstom Power is considering major job cuts in its steam power plants division, with some reports suggesting a 41 per cent reduction in the workforce.

Framatome and Siemens have signed a MoU to combine their nuclear activities preparatory to forming a joint venture to be owned 66 per cent by Framatome, and 34 per cent by Siemens, which have been jointly developing the new generation EPR pressurised water reactor. The deal is unlikely to be completed until a restructuring of the French nuclear industry is finished. This restructuring will involve Cogema taking a 34 per cent stake in Framatome, with Alcatel disposing of its stake in Framatome.

Sulzer has announced that it is transferring its hydropower business to VA Tech, subject to ratification by the regulatory authorities.

RWE of Germany is planning to merge with rival utility VEW. If this went ahead, then RWE may be interested in acquiring Eastern of the UK, currently owned by TXU of Texas. Dietmar Kuhnt, chairman of RWE, said that acquisitions were an essential part of RWE’s strategy of seeking economies of scale in Europe’s power market. In particular, it seems likely that National Power may be a target for RWE.

In the USA, Con Edision has agreed to buy Northeast Utilities for $3.3 billion, creating the USA’s largest utility. In addition, FERC has conditionally authorised the $633 million acquisition of Eastern Utilities by the New England Electric System, which is itself being acquired by National Grid of the UK for $3.2 billion.

PowerGen is prepared to spend $5 billion to buy a US electricity company within the next 12 months.

Enel, Italy’s state-owned electricity company, has raised $3 billion in international bond markets just before its privatisation. Enel is believed to be preparing itself for one of the biggest initial public offerings in the world over the next few months. Enel is continuing its diversification plans. Since 1996, the workforce has been cut from 95 000 to 79 000, and divided electricity generation and distribution into separate companies. Enel has also become the majority stakeholder in the mobile phone operator Wind, is buying three southern Italian water companies, and has taken a 30 per cent stake in Telepiu, the Italian pay-TV network. Over the next 3 years, Enel will cede 30 per cent of its generating capacity to rivals, retaining about 50 per cent of total Italian capacity. Mr Tato, chief executive of Enel, said: “Europe’s electricity market is breaking up, and in 20 years, Enel may not be in the generation business at all.”

Spanish supplier Iberdrola has formed a joint venture company with the US internet company Proxicom. The two companies reached agreement to help Iberdrola develop its Internet services. Also in Spain, the government approved external agents licences to three foreign utilities, Switzerland’s Aare-Tessin Ag Fur Elektrizitat, UK’s Eastern Group, and Enron Energie, a unit of US company Enron. This allows these companies to bring electricity into Spain from across the border. These approvals bring the number of foreign companies operating in Spain to 7. The other 4 are Electrabel of Belgium, Morocco’s Office National de l’Electricite, Rede Electrica Nacional of Portugal, and Electricité de France.

Endesa of Spain hopes to raise $200 million by selling non-core businesses owned by its Chilean unit Enersis. The sale of real estate, water and highway concessions is part of Endesa’s “Gensis Project” – a programme to manage its Latin American investments and improving Enersis’ profitability.

Elyo, the electric utilities arm of Suez Lyonnaise, has launched a cash offer to buy the 47 per cent it does not own of Trigen Energy. This followed the announcement by Vivendi, Suez’s direct competitor in water and waste management, that it was conducting a strategic review of its US electricity generating assets.

Midlands Electricity has announced that it is planning to axe 330 staff, representing 10 per cent of its workforce, as part of a cost-cutting exercise. Meanwhile, Northern Electricity has announced plans to cut 500 jobs, blaming the move on regulatory price curbs.

Eastern is to invest $312 million in a joint venture with Pohjolan Voima, Finland’s second largest generator, to help it build up its portfolio of European interests. Eastern is acquiring an 81 per cent stake in the company, which in turn is buying 15 per cent of Pohjolan.

Tepco and Mitsubishi have bought stakes worth $200 million in the US IPP Orion Power Holdings. Tepco will be the first Japanese utility to buy into a US power company. The combined stake will be around 30 per cent.

State regulatory authorities in Oregon have formally approved Scottish Power’s bid for PacifiCorp. California has already approved the bid, leaving just Wyoming, Washington, Utah and Idaho states to give their approval, which all have indicated they will do.

Detroit electric utility DTE, the parent of Detroit Edison, is to buy natural gas company MCN for $2.6 billion. The company will keep the DTE name.