November 14, 2014 / 4:08 PM / 4 years ago

France wants former Peugeot chief Varin as Areva chairman

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government wants Philippe Varin, former head of PSA Peugeot Citroen (PEUP.PA), to take over as chairman of the board at state-owned nuclear group Areva AREVA.PA, a source at the economics ministry said.

Philippe Varin, outgoing Chief Executive Officer of French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, answers to journalists during the company's 2013 results presentation and the news conference to unveil long-awaited Dongfeng deal in Paris February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Varin has already been named to become a board member at utility EDF (EDF.PA). The source said on Friday that his appointment to Areva would ensure more coherence between the strategies of the two state-controlled firms.

On Friday, shareholders of EDF, the world’s largest operator of nuclear plants, will vote on its new board, including Varin.

“The state wants Philippe Varin to enter the board of Areva with a view to become its chairman,” a source close to Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told Reuters. He would succeed Pierre Blayau as head of the board.

Areva, which is 87 percent state-owned, declined to comment.

The source said a new Areva executive board would replace the existing supervisory board. Areva’s supervisory board will meet by the end of next week to propose a new list of board members to Areva shareholders, he said.

No date has been set for an Areva shareholders meeting.

The new governance structure is designed to give the government more say in the firm. Areva will get a new board of directors and a chief executive, who will replace the current supervisory board and executive management committee.

Last month, Areva said Chief Operating Officer Philippe Knoche would serve as chairman and chief executive until its next general assembly, after the firm’s current head Luc Oursel had decided to step aside for health reasons.

Oursel has run the company since 2011, but pressure has mounted on him this year as the group struggles to sell new reactors and suffers under heavy debts.

The planned change in governance followed a scathingly critical report by the top public auditor of Areva’s management under Oursel’s predecessor Anne Lauvergeon, who has denied all wrongdoing.

Reporting Jean-Baptiste Vey; writing by Geert De Clercq; editing by Jane Baird

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