French firm forces Toshiba to adopt its share in troubled new nuclear project

Engie has announced the sale of its 40 per cent stake in the Moorside new build nuclear project to development partner Toshiba for around ¥15.3 billion (£110 million).

The French firm invoked a contractual right to offload its share in the event of a default, after Toshiba’s subsidiary Westinghouse, which was due to supply three of its AP1000 reactors for the project, filed for bankruptcy protection in the US last week.

Toshiba bought a 60 per cent stake in the NuGen consortium developing Moorside in 2014 – acquiring 50 per cent from Iberdrola and 10 per cent from Engie. The agreement between Engie and Toshiba entitled Engie to sell its entire share in the project to Toshiba if there was an “event of default”.

Engie has now decided to exercise that right following Westinghouse’s decision to seek bankruptcy protection whilst it comes up with a plan to return to profitability.

“NuGen, the British company that plans to build three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in Moorside, West Cumbria, is facing events that led Engie to exercise its contractual rights to transfer its 40 per cent stake in Toshiba,” Engie said in a statement.

The company said it “remains willing to contribute its know-how and expertise to the NuGen project and to help with any restructuring with potential new partners”.

In a separate statement, the NuGen consortium thanked Engie for its contribution to the Moorside project as a founding shareholder.

The consortium said it has been “working tirelessly” to bring in additional investment but is now “fully focused on concluding this shareholding transfer from Engie to Toshiba to enable NuGen’s Moorside Project to drive forward”.  

Toshiba said it will “continue to look for investors interested in investing in NuGen, and seek to sell off its holding in the company”.

Earlier this year the Japanese conglomerate announced it was reviewing its overseas nuclear operations after being forced to take a multi-billion-pound write-down on the acquisition of a US nuclear construction firm by Westinghouse.

Toshiba later reaffirmed its commitment to the Moorside project but said it planned to take no part in construction and would sell its stake as soon as the plant was up and running.

South Korean state-owned utility Kepco is understood to be in talks with Toshiba about purchasing its interest in NuGen. Business, energy and industrial strategy secretary Greg Clark has reportedly met with representatives of Kepco in Seoul today to persuade them to back the project and save it from collapse. 

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