PARIS (Reuters) - France’s Areva denied a report by Agence France Presse that said the state-owned nuclear reactor maker was planning over 1,000 job cuts in France as part of a strategic overhaul under new management.
The company’s one-line statement on Monday came shortly after French Industry Minister Eric Besson also ruled out the prospect of Areva job cuts in France, the world’s most nuclear-dependent country and one that is entering a crucial election year in 2012.
“Areva categorically denies the information in today’s AFP article regarding job cuts in France,” said the company.
Areva has been reviewing its investments since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan shook confidence in the industry. New Chief Executive Luc Oursel is expected to unveil his new strategy in mid-December.
AFP’s report, which cited unnamed sources, said that Areva would cut between 2,700 and 2,900 jobs as part of a strategic plan to save at least 500 million euros ($673.4 million) in costs per year, with over 1,000 staff cuts seen in France.
The report also said Areva would slash investments through 2016 by 40 percent and sell assets including its 26 percent stake in mining group Eramet.
“No job cuts in France are expected at Areva,” Besson said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
The AFP report said there would be 1,300 job cuts in Germany. It also said that while no plants would be closed in France, there would be closures of two sites in the United States and one in Belgium.
Welcoming Areva’s denial of the report, French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said he would meet with Oursel on Tuesday to stress that jobs should not be put on the line as the company strives to meet government-imposed profitability targets.
“In the current climate, Francois Baroin would like Areva to make efforts to keep jobs in France,” the statement said.
With the number of unemployed people in France at an 11-year high, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative government is eager to avoid big job cuts as he faces a tough battle for re-election in April 2012.
Sarkozy said on Thursday that PSA Peugeot Citroen had pledged not to go ahead with a plan to lay off workers in France after union officials had said that the French carmaker was planning to cut 5,000 jobs in France.
Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey, Lionel Laurent and Leigh Thomas; Editing by Gary Hill