Efforts to sell Urenco Ltd. have stalled as Dutch politicians argue over the future of the multinational nuclear-fuel processor, according to three people familiar with the situation.
A sale of Urenco, which is owned by the governments of the U.K., the Netherlands, and German utilities EON SE and RWE AG, probably won’t occur until at least the second half of next year and may be delayed to 2015, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
Debates about protecting sensitive nuclear technology and jobs as well as the best timing and price for the sale have divided the Dutch government, composed of a coalition between the Labor Party and Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberal Party, two of the people said.
The Netherlands is exploring a sale to bolster national finances after having its AAA credit rating cut by Standard & Poor’s in November. U.K. Chancellor George Osborne is counting on a Urenco sale to help close the country’s budget deficit, which stood at 5.7 percent of gross domestic product in the third quarter. EON and RWE, meanwhile, want to sell their stakes after the shift to renewable energy, part of Germany’s nuclear shutdown, cut profits at conventional power plants.
EON spokesman Markus Nitschke declined to comment on Urenco, as did RWE’s Annett Urbaczka. Officials at the Dutch Finance Ministry and the U.K. Treasury didn’t return calls seeking comment. A spokesman for Urenco declined to comment.
In May, EON’s chief financial officer said he expected a sales process to start this year and complete in 2014. EON Chief Executive Officer Johannes Teyssen said in November he was still hopeful a deal could get done next year.
Urenco reported a 23 percent increase in revenue to 1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion) last year as utilities in emerging markets like China and India made up for sliding uranium demand in Europe.
France’s Areva SA is monitoring the sale of Urenco but won’t make a bid that would damage its balance sheet, Chief Financial Officer Pierre Aubouin said in July. The company has also attracted interest from Canada’s Cameco Corp. and private-equity firms, two of the people said.
Cameco spokesman Gord Struthers didn’t immediately respond to e-mail and phone requests for comment.