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Areva Said to Commence Sale of Nuclear Unit Canberra

Areva SA, the largest nuclear reactor maker, has started a process to sell its nuclear radiation measurement unit Canberra, three people with knowledge of the plans said.

The state-controlled company based in Paris sent financial information to potential bidders for the asset, which may fetch as much as 400 million euros ($526 million), said the people, who declined to be identified as the talks are private. Canberra posted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of about 30 million euros, they said.

Areva Chief Executive Officer Luc Oursel, who took over from Anne Lauvergeon in June, plans to sell at least 1.2 billion euros of non-strategic assets by the end of 2013 to shore up a balance sheet that’s been impaired by the acquisition of uranium mines in Africa, losses at a nuclear reactor under construction in Finland and falling demand for nuclear fuel following last year’s accident at an atomic plant in Japan.

Bidders for Canberra may include French private equity firm Astorg Partners SAS, which made a pre-emptive approach last year; Mirion Technologies, owned by American Capital Ltd.; buyout firm Montagu Private Equity LLP, based in London; and Paris-based PAI Partners, the people said.

Representatives of Areva, Montagu, Astorg and PAI declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Mirion was not immediately available for comment.

Asset Disposals

Canberra, which makes radiation detectors and monitoring systems and software, employs more than 1,000 people and has 12 production and engineering facilities in countries such the U.S., the U.K., France and Canada, according to its website. The sale may be completed by the end of the third quarter, according to one of the people involved in the process. That would put Areva on track to reach its goal for asset disposals.

The French company already agreed this year to sell a 26 percent stake in Eramet SA to the French government for 776 million euros, and a 28 percent stake in a uranium mine in Canada to Cameco Corp. for 112 million euros and potential royalties.

It sold its 20 percent stake in Sofradir, a maker of infrared detectors, to Thales SA and Safran SA for an undisclosed sum, and has said it will seek to sell its 63 percent stake in gold-exploration company La Mancha Resources Inc.

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