Big field race for Westinghouse

Up to 15 companies have expressed an interest in purchasing Westinghouse, the US-based nuclear construction firm being sold off by UK government-owned British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL). Leading contenders are thought be General Electric of the US and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, with South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries having recently shown an interest too.

The world’s largest nuclear engineering group Areva is reportedly planning to drop its plan to bid for Westinghouse, fearing that US anti-trust authorities would block any possible link-up.

BNFL will take six months to evaluate any bids received. It says that the sale will take at least one year to complete.

Westinghouse technology is the basis for nearly half the world’s operating nuclear power plants.

Electrabel board backs bid from Suez

The board of Belgian electricity utility Electrabel has recommended to shareholders a cash and shares offer valued at around €11.4bn ($14.1bn) by French utility group Suez for the remaining 49 per cent of equity that it does not already own. Union and employee representatives have also backed the deal, which is likely to close in mid-October.

With Belgian electricity prices the fourth highest in the European Union, Electrabel is regarded as a cash generator. The Belgian government is thought to be considering requiring Electrabel to auction off some of its generating capacity to competitors as part of its market liberalization programme. The acquisition would make Suez the fifth largest supplier of energy in Europe.

If the deal is completed Electrabel would retain its name and its headquarters in Belgium.

British Gas agrees home CHP partnership with Ceres Power

British Gas has signed an agreement with Ceres Power to commercially develop domestic heat and electricity boilers.

The boilers will incorporate fuel cells developed and supplied by Ceres Power, fuelled by domestic natural gas supplies.

Ceres Power has undertaken extensive testing on the fuel cell, which generates both heat and electricity when fuel is passed across the surface of a cube of wafer-thin cells, each about the size of a CD case. The new boilers aim to dramatically lower household bills as well as cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Ceres Power CEO, Peter Bance, said the insight British Gas will provide would be invaluable.

Areva T&D price transformation

Areva T&D has cited an unprecedented rise in raw material costs over the last 18 months for the increased cost of its range of transformers and reactors. Areva is to proposing to index the price of its transformers on an escalation formula, reflecting the variations in raw material costs (magnetic steel, mild steel, copper and oil).

Areva said the new pricing policy would help avoid speculation on future raw material costs and ensure a true correlation between costs and product pricing.

Overcapacity in the transformer market and high materials costs forced rival ABB to announce a consolidation in its transformer business last month with the closure of a number of plants and the loss of 1300 jobs.

Alliant sets domestic agenda

US Mid-West energy supplier Alliant Energy Corporation plans to add 600 MW of new power generation capacity in the period to 2013 to meet increasing demand from consumers in its home markets. Alliant plans to add new baseload and wind farm ownership as a means of meeting customer demand

New chief executive William Harvey plans to accelerate the process of winding down overseas operations in Mexico, Brazil and China. The company reported losses from its international holdings of $58.7m in the second quarter including a $106m write-down in the value of holdings in China and Brazil. “We will approach unregulated businesses cautiously,” said Harvey. “I don’t envision our casting the net as wide as we did during the last business cycle.”

Mitsui acquires rights to ‘Isoengine’ from RWE npower

Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Company (MES) has acquired the intellectual property rights for the ‘Isoengine’ research and development project from RWE npower. This comprises 11 patents and the body of knowledge developed by npower over the last 12 years.

The Isoengine uses an integrated power cycle offering high efficiency in small-scale distributed power applications. MES has partnered npower in the project since 2003 and the two companies will continue to work together for the next two years.

A strategy of concentrating on its power generation and energy retailing interests has prompted npower to relinquish development of the Isoengine. Original equipment manufacturer MES has the design expertise and manufacturing capability to commercialize the technology.

News digest

AEP awarded damages: A US federal judge has awarded American Electric Power (AEP) $123m after ruling that Tractebel broke a power purchase agreement from the 800 MW plant AEP had built to fulfill it.

BHEL targets China: India’s Bharat Heavy Electricals is meeting the challenge of competition from the Far East by reducing construction times and manufacturing power plant equipment tailored especially for the Chinese market.

Decline for UES: Russia’s electricity utility RAO UES has reported group profits down 35.2 per cent in 2004 to 17.411bn rubles ($612m) against a background of lower electricity tariffs and reduced exports.

Deere leaps into wind: US agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere has created a business unit to provide project development, debt financing and other services for rural US wind energy projects.

Endesa advances: Endesa group sales in Spanish and Portuguese markets rose 4 per cent to 47 592 GWh in the first half of 2005. Sales in the liberalized sector of those markets was up 22 per cent.

E.ON training initiative: E.ON is to invest approximately €10m ($12.3m) to create 515 new traineeships in Germany including 90 technical and industrial apprenticeships.

GE absorbs Ionics: Ionics Fabricated Products is to be integrated into GE Energy’s nuclear segment. The nuclear components manufacturer was acquired by GE earlier this year.

Iberdrola overcomes: Despite insufficient generation capacity and recurrent electricity pricing deficits, Iberdrola was able to report first half profits up 12.5 per cent to €653m ($804m).

Sales up at REpower: REpower Systems reported first half sales up 84.8 per cent in 2005 and its highest ever order book. Installed capacity rose 54.4 per cent to 123.5 MW.

Vattenfall creates divisions: Following the acquisition of power generation interests from Elsam, Vattenfall has set up two new Nordic generation units, one for thermal power and one for wind power.

Vestas breach claim: Germany’s Enercon has issued a writ claiming infringement of patent against Denmark’s Vestas in relation to lightning protection of blades for wind turbines.

Winder in MBO: UK power and electrical equipment manufacturing firms Winder Electrical and Newton Derby have announced management buyouts and the establishment of a new holding company, Winder Power.