SNC-Lavalin still interested in buying AECL: CEO

Thu May 26, 2011 5:18pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - SNC-Lavalin Group Inc SNC.TO is still interested in acquiring Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd's nuclear-power development unit from the federal government despite losing its partner in the bid, Chief Executive Pierre Duhaime said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after a speech to a Calgary business audience, Duhaime said SNC-Lavalin, Canada's biggest engineering and construction firm, was proceeding with the bid despite the withdrawal of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System pension fund as a partner.

"We continue to be interested and continue to have ... discussions," Duhaime said.

Asked if he would look for a new partner to replace OMERS, Duhaime said: "Not at this time."

AECL Candu unit designs and builds reactors for electricity generating stations. Canada's Conservative government put the unit up for sale in 2009 after years of subsidies and a poor performance. It plans to retain ownership of the research business and place it under private management.

SNC-Lavalin is the sole bidder for the unit. But little is known of its bid, including the price, in a process that has been kept secret.

Negotiations were slow while Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives had a minority government. The government was reelected with a majority in Canada's May 2 election, and Duhaime said the process may now speed up.

(Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Janet Guttsman)

<p>Pierre Duhaime, newly appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., smiles as he speaks to the media following their annual general meeting in Montreal, May 7, 2009. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi</p>