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June 27, 2017

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France's struggling Areva picks up Japanese investors

PARIS -- France's troubled nuclear energy company Areva announced Friday that two Japanese companies would take equity stakes as part of its restructuring as investors approved a state bailout.

Shareholders approved almost unanimously a capital increase that will see the French state inject 2 billion euros (US$2.2 billion) into the parent company Areva SA.

The French government is already the majority owner of the company which has faced severe difficulties since the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan called nuclear power into question across the world.

The restructuring, approved by EU regulators last month, will also see the French state inject 2.5 billion euros into the NewCo unit into which Areva's nuclear fuel mining, enrichment and reprocessing activities will be placed.

Areva announced on Friday that Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries would each invest 500 million and take a 5 percent stake in NewCo once the French state's investment was completed.

A separate shareholders meeting approved those investments.

Areva has previously worked with both companies in fuel treatment.

Areva said in a statement that "the capital of NewCo remains open to other strategic investors for investment within the same framework as the agreements currently being finalized."

That could be construed as a signal to China National Nuclear Corporation, with which talks have hit a snag over conditions set by the Chinese state-owned company, in particular having a representative on the board of directors.

Power firm EDF, also majority-owned by the French state, is to purchase a majority of Areva's reactor unit.

Delays in the construction of Areva's new generation of nuclear reactors in Finland and France, as well as a disastrous 2007 purchase of a Canadian uranium mining firm helped sink the company's finances.

Shares in the company, which debuted at 30.16 euros when the company listed in 2011, have since tumbled and closed at 4.55 euros on Friday.

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