Belgian electricity utility Electrabel confirmed Friday that it has withdrawn its bid for a majority stake in CEZ, the Czech state-controlled electricity company, which is the main part of the country’s power sector sell-off.

The company, a unit of France’s Suez, said stiff competition and political uncertainties surrounding the future of the Temelin nuclear power plant were the main factors behind its decision.

“Electrabel won’t be going any further in the privatization process. We won’t be participating in due diligence,” a company spokeswoman said, confirming earlier Czech press reports.

These reports claimed that Electrabel had withdrawn because the rules had placed it at a disadvantage to other bidders. But the spokeswoman denied this.

“We didn’t feel that we stood a good enough chance of winning in this privatization because the competition from other bidders was so strong,” she said.

“The situation with Temelin is also unsure,” she said, referring to the nuclear plant located near the Austrian border. “Temelin’s future is a political decision and these aren’t always based on technical and economic arguments,” she said.

Electrabel has many years’ experience operating nuclear plants, which provide more than half of Belgium’s electricity.

Electrabel was one of the four foreign groups short-listed in the tender to sell a 67.6 per cent stake in leading power utility CEZ in a single package with majority holdings in six regional electricity distributors.

The remaining three bidders on the Czech government’s short-list are France’s Electricit�e France , a consortium of Italy’s Enel and Spain’s Iberdrola SA, and US firm NRG Energy in a consortium with the UK’s International Power PLC (IPR). British Energy had expressed an interest in managing Czech nuclear interests but failed to make the short-list.

The Czech government, which is also selling a majority stake in its gas industry, wants the sales completed before the general election next year.