EDF in ‘Exploratory’ Talks to Buy GE’s Nuclear Turbines Unit
Electricite de France SA is in preliminary talks to buy the General Electric Co. unit that makes and maintains turbines for atomic power stations, as the French utility ponders ways to preserve a key supplier while the country shrinks its reliance on nuclear energy.
“GE being one of EDF’s key partners in the nuclear business, EDF is currently analyzing conditions under which the interests of the EDF Group would be best served,” the French state-controlled utility said in a statement Wednesday. “There is no certainty regarding the outcome of this work and of these exploratory discussions.”
EDF’s purchase of the nuclear activities of GE Steam Power would boost French President Emmanuel Macron’s credentials as a defender of the country’s energy sovereignty as he prepares to seek re-election in April. The U.S. company bought the business as part of its disastrous 2015 acquisition of Alstom SA’s energy assets.
Macron has been criticized by political opponents for being part of the government that allowed GE to buy Alstom’s power business, which helps maintain key parts of France’s 56 atomic plants. That continues even after GE took a charge of $22 billion in 2018, largely related to Alstom’s assets, as demand for coal, gas and nuclear turbines waned in favor of renewable energy.
French online newspaper La Tribune reported Aug. 27 that EDF was close to buying GE’s nuclear assets. Agence France-Presse reported the talks earlier Wednesday.
For GE, which confirmed the discussions, a sale of that business would help it focus on gas turbines and renewable energy. The Boston-based company said last year it planned to stop selling equipment to new coal-fired power plants, a market dominated by suppliers from China and elsewhere in Asia. Shares have risen 12% this year through Tuesday’s close.
For EDF, the purchase would give it greater oversight over maintenance and turbine supply in the construction of nuclear plants in France and abroad. Shares are down 18% this year.
While Macron and several presidential hopefuls have called for the construction of nuclear reactors, the French government has yet to greenlight EDF’s plan to build six units. France is due to shut a dozen aging nuclear reactors by 2035 to make room for more wind and solar power.
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