Canada nuclear firms seek Ottawa financing: report

Thu Aug 7, 2008 2:17pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and partner SNC-Lavalin Group want the Canadian government to provide billions of dollars in financing for their bid to build two nuclear reactors in the Canadian province of Ontario, a newspaper said on Thursday.

The Globe and Mail said Patrick Lamarre, the head of SNC-Lavalin's nuclear division, had written to Ottawa saying the firms were at a major disadvantage to French and U.S. companies, which he said had access to government-backed financing.

Ontario is seeking to buy two new reactors at a cost of at least C$6 billion ($5.7 billion). The Canadians are competing against France's Areva and U.S.-based Westinghouse, which is owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp.

"We are potentially faced with a predatory financing situation," the Globe quoted Lamarre as writing to Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn.

"In order to ensure that (we) are competing on a level playing field with our competitors, you will understand that it is imperative that equivalent financing support for the Canadian bid be confirmed," he added.

A spokeswoman for AECL said SNC-Lavalin had written a letter to Lunn but said she did not know what it said. A spokeswoman for Lunn said he had received a letter.

"The government of Canada believes that AECL will submit a commercially viable bid and the government will support it," said Louise Girouard, Lunn's chief spokeswoman, but gave no further details.

Areva said it did not receive subsidies from Paris for foreign sales. A spokesman said if the firm did receive backing from a French export credit agency, "this support would cover financing for about 8 percent of the value of a reactor."

A spokeswoman for SNC-Lavalin declined to comment.

($1=$1.05 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway)