Japan's Toshiba made a solo bid for Areva's transmission and distribution (T&D) business on Monday while AXA Private Equity said it would not join the race for the French nuclear group's coveted unit.
Toshiba was in talks with Abu Dhabi National Energy Co (Taqa) TAQA.AD to create a consortium, but Taqa pulled out after failing to secure approval from majority owner the Abu Dhabi government, two people familiar with the matter said.
Binding bids for the T&D business, which analysts estimate is worth between three and five billion euros ($4.5-7.5 billion), are due on Mondau and a source close to the situation told Reuters that a winner would be chosen by Nov. 23.
Bids are expected from U.S.-based General Electric, Toshiba and a French consortium made up of Alstom and Schneider Electric
Alstom used to own T&D before selling it in 2004 to Areva for less than 1 billion euros.
Alstom said it made an offer with Schneider but other potential bidders declined to comment.
General Electric reportedly spent the weekend trying to woo AXA Private Equity into joining its consortium after its private equity player CVC partners backed out.
But a spokeswoman at AXA Private Equity said on Monday that it would not be submitting a bid with the U.S. power giant.
Citing banking sources, news service Wansquare, a joint venture between the Journal des Finances and Le Figaro newspapers, said that CVC had withdrawn from the GE-led consortium because of disagreements with the U.S. group.
Meanwhile, a source close to the matter told Reuters that the three bidders had raised their offers ahead of Monday's deadline.
They all raised the bids significantly, said the source, adding that details of the final bids would only be known when the official bids are submitted later this afternoon.
Earlier, newspaper La Tribune said Toshiba and General Electric were ready to offer more than 4 billion euros, while the French tandem of Alstom and Schneider were offering 3.5 billion euros.
A source close to Reuters said that Toshiba's bid was financially strong, but analysts said the deal could further dent Toshiba's finances, which are weighed down by earnings and its acquisition of U.S. nuclear firm Westinghouse in 2006.
Toshiba is searching for another partner to take the place of Taqa but so far has been unable to find one, two sources told Reuters. The lack of a partner could cast a shadow on Toshiba's bid, an analyst said.
(Reporting by Matthias Blamont and Marcel Michelson; editing by Simon Jessop and Marie Maitre)