Innovest rates Areva ‘A’

Investment research and advisory firm Innovest has rated Areva as A on its social and environmental rating scale. The assessment was carried out at Areva’s request and places the company above the BBB average for its sector.

The rating gives socially responsible investment funds a better understanding of Areva’s sustainable development programmes and favours the company’s inclusion in that type of portfolio. Ratings are scaled from CCC to AAA.

The Innovest rating is based on an assessment of performance and strategies along four lines: strategic governance, the environment, human capital and stakeholder relations. Innovest judges the corporation’s capacity for creating sustainable value for the investor over the medium to long term.

EDF profits soar

Electricité de France (EDF) has reported a 56 per cent rise in profits for 2004 to €1.3bn. The strong results will make it difficult for group president Pierre Gadonneix to press for a rise in power tariffs.

Sales in 2004 rose by 4.5 per cent to €46.9bn while operating earnings improved by ten per cent to €12.1bn. Debt fell to €19.6bn.

In Argentina, a block on tariffs generated a loss of €235m and in Brazil, losses reached €682m. Net profits in France rose by 22.8 per cent to €1.8bn, with earnings generated in both the regulated and non regulated sectors of the market. EDF Energy in the UK increased profits by 3.4 per cent.

Gadonneix said that investment would continue both at home and abroad, with investment in France focusing on increasing production capacity.

Voith buys Wavegen

Voith Siemens Hydro has announced that it has purchased Scotland-based Wavegen, a leader in the construction of wave energy systems. The acquisition will give Voith Siemens a foothold in the market for this emerging technology and allow it to boost the development of innovative technologies for energy generation from water.

Voith Siemens states that the commercialization and implementation of existing technologies for near-to-shore power stations is an important part of its future business. Consulting, concept, operating and maintenance services for wave-to-wire plants, as well as the future development of new technologies will also be part of the company’s future activities, it says.

Centrica acquires Oxxio

UK-based Centrica plc has agreed to buy Dutch energy supplier Oxxio BV for €137m. The acquisition will provide Centrica with a growth platform and the opportunity to develop an understanding of the deregulating Dutch market.

Oxxio supplies energy to residential and small business customers in the Netherlands and currently has 400 000 electricity and 140 000 gas accounts. It is currently acquiring 20 000 new accounts per month. The company operates a low-cost, technology-based business model which combines internal management of key elements such as marketing and procurement with the outsourcing of activities such as billing and sales.

With the acquisition, Centrica will become the fourth largest supplier in the Netherlands in terms of electricity accounts. The Dutch market was fully deregulated in July 2004.

Shaw joins AP1000 team

Shaw Stone & Webster has joined the Westinghouse Electric Company’s and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ AP1000 Consortium, which is proposing to provide the nuclear island for four new units in China. Shaw will provide construction management, project planning and oversight, and a portion of the engineering and procurement functions.

The AP1000 technology is the first Generation III+ reactor design to receive approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Generation III+ is the new generation of competitive reactor designs that will follow the Generation III Advanced Light Water Reactors.

EDF and Total up stakes in photovoltaics

Electricité de France (EDF) and Total have increased their respective stakes in Total Energie to 50 per cent each through the acquisition of a 20 per cent interest held by the management of the company. Total Energie, which specialises in photovoltaic energy, will now be known as Tenesol.

Lyon, France-based Tenesol has designed, manufactured, installed and operated photovoltaic solar systems for more than 20 years. It has a photovoltaic panel production plant in South Africa and has begun construction of a new facility in Toulouse, France.

In 2004, Tenesol generated consolidated sales of €115m, corresponding to 25 MWp of solar panels. The solar panels are used for domestic and industrial applications at sites connected to the grid and off-grid sites.

Tenesol’s key markets include Germany and French overseas territories. It is also implementing rural electrification programmes in Mali and South Africa.

News digest

Alstom recovers: Alstom is on track to hit operating margins of 7-8 per cent by 2008, signalling a recovery for the engineering firm that reached the brink of collapse last year. In its annual results for 2004/05, orders received rose 15 per cent year-on-year while both net losses and net debt have been significantly cut.

Areva expands: Areva Transmission & Distribution has established its first major research centre in China, at Tsinghua University, to spur aggressive growth in the Chinese market. The company will spend €500 000 ($625 000) on five research projects through its partnership with Tsinghua, China’s leading engineering university.

Calpine sells: Calpine Corp. has entered into exclusive negotiations for the sale of four gas-fired power plants with a combined capacity of nearly 850 MW. Three of the four asset sale agreements are with Tenaska Power Fund and the fourth is with Diamond Generating Corporation.

FuelCell cost reduction: FuelCell Energy has successfully incorporated design changes to the 250 kW Direct FuelCell power plant, resulting in a 25 per cent cost reduction. The update is part of the company’s rolling three-year cost-out programme, which aims to achieve a 20-25 per cent cost reduction per year.

Meiya invests: Meiya Power Company Limited has signed a joint venture contract with Hunan Economic Construction Investment Company to invest in power projects in Hunan Province, China. The joint venture company, Xiangtou International Company Limited, will have registered capital of $485m.

Novera AIMs high: Novera Energy Limited has announced the company’s successful admission to the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange and a placing of shares to raise £5.3m ($9.8m). On admission, the company had a market capitalization of £31.8m.

ScottishPower sells: UK utility ScottishPower has agreed to sell its US subsidiary PacifiCorp to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company for $9.4bn. ScottishPower will keep hold of PPM Energy, one of the largest wind farm operators in the US.

Siemens JV: Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution and Shenzhen Baochang Power Supply Co. Ltd. have formed a joint venture to manufacture medium voltage switchgear for the south of China. The move will give Siemens PTD access to the southern Chinese market for power supply systems, a market which is currently dominated by regional suppliers.