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AREVA seeks desalination partners

AREVA Resources Namibia, a local subsidiary of French energy giant AREVA Group says it is looking for a suitor for its N$1.8 billion Erongo Desalination Plant.
Managing Director Hilifa Mbako told the Economist Wednesday that the company is intent on selling  part ownership of its desalination plant commissioned in April 2010 to a local investor in line with  local business empowerment requirements.
It was not immediately clear whether AREVA had been pressured by authorities to cede part of its stake in the desalination plant to BEE players. However, the announcement by AREVA will again bring the spotlight on the ownership structure of the largest seawater desalination plant in southern Africa following widespread media reports in recent years that suggested that diversified local group, the United Africa Group, had bought a 50% stake in the plant for an undisclosed amount.
Mbako said: “The Erongo desalination plant, which currently provides much needed water to users in the Erongo region, remains the property of AREVA. Despite media reports to the contrary, no agreement has been made to secure local ownership yet.”

Pressed for further information on how much of the plant will be sold to local investors, Mbako said: “We have not yet started to discuss the percentages or who will take partnership. It is only an idea at this stage.” The Areva MD also denied claims that the company wants to dispose its local N$1 billion mining assets which were put on a N$100 million per year care and maintenance programme due to depressed uranium prices, a feature of the uranium market since the Fukushima incident in March 2011. Mbako said despite the decision to postpone further investment in the Trekkopje project, AREVA remains committed to operate the Trekkopje mine as soon as market improvement demonstrates the profitability of the project. “Indeed, the uranium market fundamentals remain valid in the long term, mainly thanks to the expected strong growth in nuclear reactors in Asia,” he said.

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