France’s Areva in talks to sell its US nuclear measurements unit Canberra

French nuclear power group Areva SA (EPA:AREVA) unveiled exclusive negotiations over the sale of its US nuclear measurement solutions unit Canberra Industries Inc to French private equity firm Astorg Partners, as part of a strategic plan announced in December last year.

Under the Action 2016 strategic initiative, Areva has set out to sell assets with the aim of cutting debt and raising funds to finance its strategic and safety investment programme, the vendor explained.

Areva provided no further details about the ongoing talks in its short, regulatory statement, but Reuters cited informed people as saying that the private equity suitor had made an offer that gives Canberra a value of between EUR310m (USD405m) and EUR350m. The information provided by these sources confirmed a report by French newspaper Les Echos. According to the daily, a deal could be struck within four to five weeks.

Areva said in December 2011 it planned to strengthen its balance sheet by reducing investments and disposing of assets after demand fell following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The group announced then it aimed to sell EUR1.2bn worth of non-strategic operations within two years, but later, in July 2012 said it would reach this target in 2012.

Canberra, active for more than 40 years, provides nuclear measurement solutions used to ensure personnel safety, assess the health of nuclear facilities and protect the public and the environment. The firm, offering integrated nuclear gamma and alpha spectroscopy devices, has production and engineering facilities globally, employing over 1,000 staff, according to its website.