Areva mismanaged UraMin takeover: parliament report

Wed Mar 7, 2012 9:15am EST
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By Caroline Jacobs and Muriel Boselli

PARIS (Reuters) - French nuclear group Areva (AREVA.PA: Quote) mishandled the $2.5 billion acquisition of Canadian start-up mining company UraMin in 2007, the outcome of a parliamentary probe said, sharing the conclusion of an earlier internal company inquiry.

The parliamentary report's authors, like Areva's internal investigation, did not uncover any fraud, as some had feared, and did not make recommendations for how Areva could prevent the same mistakes from happening again.

The report is the last of three on the botched takeover of UraMin's three southern African mines which state-controlled Areva has written down almost entirely in its accounts because it is unclear when they could start producing uranium.

UraMin is: "A file that has shown, from the beginning until the end, some malfunctioning in the company's governance and its decisional process," Marc Goua, Socialist Party parliamentarian and Camille de Rocca Serra, parliamentarian for the ruling conservative UMP, wrote in the report published on Wednesday.

UraMin is at the centre of a dispute between ousted chief executive Anne Lauvergeon, known as "Atomic Anne," who oversaw the UraMin acquisition, and Areva, which has withheld Lauvergeon's 1.5 million euro severance pay.

The unusual circumstances under which Areva bought UraMin - booming demand for nuclear energy, the need to secure the supply of uranium and sector consolidation pushing up uranium prices to a record high - fueled a sense of urgency.

"It is striking to notice to what extent the documents forwarded to the social bodies (such as the Government Shareholding Agency) insist on the 'last chance' nature that this purchase represented," the report said.

The Government Shareholding Agency APE acts as a shareholder for the state and clears investments and takeovers.   Continued...