Paris to give GDF extra time to examine options

The French government is to give Gaz de France (GDF) up to six months to study strategic options as a way out of the stalemate in the utility’s planned merger with Suez, La Tribune has reported, citing unnamed sources.

The business daily said that while French president Nicolas Sarkozy has yet to give his final decision his government is now considering going back to the drawing board. The French government has said repeatedly that it is looking at all options regarding the GDF-Suez merger, while refusing to tie itself to a timetable.

According to La Tribune, Suez has continued to work on the merger project in the past few days, which has been vigorously supported by CEO Gerard Mestrallet. At the same time, the newspaper notes that Suez is not prepared to sell off a large part of its business in order to enable a merger of equals to take place with GDF.

Moreover, Suez is no longer as exposed to a takeover as when the GDF deal was first announced, La Tribune added, with former adversary Enel having since acquired Endesa, while Suez has build up an 11 per cent stake in GDF.

Areva and Mitsubishi to develop jointly new mid-sized reactor

Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) have signed a memorandum of understanding setting the framework of a joint venture to develop and market an advanced mid-sized nuclear reactor worldwide.

Teams from both companies have since October worked together to define the conceptual basis of the reactor. In April this year they agreed on the main features of the reactor. It will be an advanced, generation 3, pressurized water, three-loop type with an output of around 1100 MW.

It will integrate the latest features already adopted by Areva and MHI in terms of safety, the environment and efficiency (e.g. possibility of extended fuel cycles).

The companies anticipate being in a position to finalize the agreement by the end of September.

Alstom enters wind power market with Spanish deal

French engineering group Alstom has bought Spanish wind turbine maker Ecotecnia for €350m ($471.1 m) in its first move into the wind power industry.

Alstom said in a statement that Ecotecnia was likely to have sales in 2007 of between €300m and €350m and an operating margin of seven per cent. Half of its sales are generated outside Spain in other European markets.

It said Ecotecnia had installed or was in the process of installing more than 1500 wind turbines, capable of generating 1433 MW of electricity or two per cent of worldwide capacity.

The Spanish company, currently structured as a cooperative, is also active in solar panels, Alstom said.

Iberdrola buys Energy East for $4.5bn

Spain’s Iberdrola SA has acquired Energy East Corporation for $4.5bn, increasing its presence in the United States as it expands internationally.

Iberdrola said it would pay $28.50 per share in cash for Energy East, an electricity and natural gas company in the northeastern USA. The Spanish company, which recently completed the $23bn acquisition of Scottish Power, said it viewed the USA as one of the best opportunities for growth. It cited the strong growth potential and favourable tax benefits for wind power development.

Iberdrola, which already has a wind power development pipeline in the United States, said it would explore opportunities to expand Energy East’s wind generation portfolio. It added that it would weigh different financing options for the deal, which is expected to close in 2008.Energy East has 1.8 m customers for electricity and 0.9 m for natural gas.

Vote on bill threatens foreign ownership in USA energy sector

The United States House of Representatives has voted 370-45 to pass a bill that could block international companies acquiring US energy-related entities.

The legislation, identical to a bill passed by the Senate in late June, will now move to the president for his approval. It revises the structure and function of the inter-agency commission, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which was set up in 1975 to protect national security when companies with ties to other governments buy Amercian companies.

The House passed a similar CFIUS measure in February, but adopted a less stringent Senate version to help the bill’s progress toward the president.

Siemens secures tidal power tie-up

Voith Siemens Hydro and Korea- based renewables developer Renetec have agreed to establish a joint venture for the development of tidal current technology.

The new company – 51 per cent owned by Voith Siemens – will be located in the South Korean province of Wando and will manufacture and market tidal current turbines.

The company will initially concentrate on a 600 MW tidal current power plant to be built in Wando that will be set up with turbines mounted on a bridge-like construction that can support up to three 1 MW turbines.

China: Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Company has said it has signed an agreement with Electricité de France (EDF), under which the European firm will buy carbon credits for 3.6 m tonnes of CO2 equivalent from the Chinese wind power unit.

France: Enel Erelis, the French subsidiary of Italian utility Enel, has acquired four wind projects in France that will total 58 MW in capacity once complete at the end of 2009. Two of the plants will be in Brittany and will total 1.4 MW and 1 MW, while one 20 MW project will be in Picardie, and a 12 MW development in Auvergne.

Germany: RWE AG and E.ON AG are planning to drastically increase their electricity prices from around September, Der Spiegel said, citing sources. It said the prices would be raised because of the increases in procurement costs.

Germany: Voith Turbo, a group division of Voith AG, Heidenheim, plans to acquire the German gear manufacturer BHS Getriebe GmbH from the former majority shareholder Halder.

Greece: European utility Edison’s board of directors has authorized the signing of a memorandum of agreement with Greek hydrocarbon player Hellenic Petroleum, which establishes guidelines for the creation of a 50:50 joint venture to operate in the Greek electric power market.

Netherlands: The Royal Decree ordering Dutch energy companies to split their operations may present opportunities for foreign energy companies in the Dutch market, say industry insiders. The eventual un-bundling process is likely to take up to two-and-a-half years to complete, according to one source.

Nicragua: Spain’s Union Fenosa has received a $2.45m fine from the Nicaraguan Trade, Commerce and Finance Ministry after refusing to recognize the authority of the Consumer Defense Directorate in processing users’ complaints about their service, despite a Supreme Court resolution.

Norway: Statoil has signed an agreement gaining considerable interests in technology company Sway, which has developed promising solutions for floating wind turbines in deep water. The first full-scale wind turbine is expected to be completed and installed between 2010 and 2012.