PARIS - French nuclear reactor builder Areva is to decide the buyer for its transmission and distribution (T&D) business mid-November, with bidders sending in final offers this Monday.
But the sale worth several billions of euros, which has been marked by fierce competition between bidders and lobbying in the press, could be delayed until late November, a news site said.
Web site Wansquare reported Friday that a meeting of the supervisory board scheduled for Nov. 16 has been postponed indefinitely so the company can spend more time examining the complex offers. This could postpone a final decision until the end of November, Wansquare said.
State-owned nuclear reactor group Areva is selling its T&D unit and has selected Japan's Toshiba, the consortium led by U.S.-based General Electric, and French partners Alstom and Schneider Electric as possible buyers.
Just two days before the bid is due, GE is reportedly looking to bring in new investors, including sovereign funds from Singapore, Korea and Qatar, Les Echos newspaper said.
Areva has stated that it intends to make a decision on the deal by Nov. 16 and had no comment Friday on the reports. Sources close to Reuters said that Areva would chose one or two bidders next week to deal with exclusively, after seeing the bids on Monday.
But Usinenouvelle.com reported Friday that the deal was already done, saying Alstom and Schneider Electric had won.
Analysts believe that French President Nicolas Sarkozy favours a 'French solution' to the sale and is championing the bid from Alstom-Schneider.
However, if the Alstom-Schneider offer is accepted the business will be split, with Schneider taking control of the distribution and Alstom taking control of transmission.
This has lead to concerns that there will be job losses in France. Alstom Chief Executive Officer Patrick Kron told the Le Monde newspaper on Thursday that it was important to keep jobs and work sites.
Usinenouvelle.com also said that Areva management is resisting the decision to pick Alstom-Schneider as the buyer.
This decision was made contrary to the opinion of (Areva Chief Executive) Anne Lauvergeon and the 41 vice presidents of the T&D division who violently oppose a dismantlement of their division, the web site said.
Economy Minister Christine Lagarde has said the offers for T&D would be assessed on the basis of price, industrial strategy and employment issues.
Areva, in which the French state holds a 91 percent stake, is selling the T&D unit, valued at between 3 and 5 billion euros by analysts, as part of an 11 billion euro plan to fund expansion that includes a capital increase.
(Reporting by Nina Sovich)