Government confirms Urenco sale

THE government has confirmed it will sell some or all of its 33% stake in Urenco, the world’s second-largest producer of enriched uranium.

Three countries hold equal stakes in the security-sensitive uranium enrichment concern – Britain, the Netherlands and Germany, whose share is held by utilities E.ON and RWE.

The Buckinghamshire-based firm employs around 300 people at an enrichment plant in Capenhurst near Chester. The group saw pre-tax profits grow 16% to £455m in the year to December on sales of £1.3bn, up 23%.

Urenco is estimated to be worth up to £8.5bn and several buyers have been reported to be ready to bid for a stake. These include French nuclear group Areva, Canadian uranium miner Cameco Corp, reactor builder Westinghouse’s Japanese parent Toshiba, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).

In a statement the government said: “The decision to proceed towards a sale comes after the government secured agreement from its Dutch and German partners.”

“Any sale will only be concluded if the government is satisfied that the UK’s security and non-proliferation interests can be protected and that value for money is achieved for the UK taxpayer.”

With a market share of 31%, Urenco is the world’s second-largest uranium enrichment firm after Russia’s Tenex. Urenco enriches uranium into nuclear fuel sold to power stations in Europe, the United States and Asia.