The doomed nuclear power joint venture between France’s Areva (Euronext: CEI)
and Germany’s Siemens (NYSE: SI) is close to settling a 20-month European Commission investigation into potentially illegal “non-compete” clauses in the tie-up, which ended in 2009 on acrimonious terms.
In an effort to clear up the antitrust fallout from the now-defunct pact, the engineering groups have offered to pare obligations – which extended well beyond the lifetime of the joint venture – to not challenge each other in certain product markets.
The Financial Times report that the troubled joint enterprise was formed in 2001 but Siemens grew frustrated with its junior role and attempted to quit the partnership in 2009 with the intention of establishing a rival joint venture with Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear company.
But the nuclear revival it was hoping for never materialised and after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, Siemens abandoned the nuclear industry.
The German group’s move to quit the Areva venture was followed by years of wrangling over the value of its stake, which ended with a tribunal ordering Siemens to pay €648m for breach of contract. The tribunal also reduced the duration of the non-compete clause, which was supposed to apply for 11 years after Siemens’s exit, to four years.
Competition officials were not satisfied with even the slimmed down agreement, however. In their preliminary investigation, the Commission concluded that the agreements over Areva’s core portfolio of nuclear products and services were “excessive”.
The groups have offered to reduce the duration from four to three years.
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