Government blocks £400m US bid for British Nuclear Group

Fluor rebuffed over clean-up deal
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The Independent Online

The controversial £400m bid by US engineering giant Fluor for clean-up company British Nuclear Group (BNG) has been rejected by the Government.

BNG's parent company, BNFL, will will now have less influence over how its decommissioning businesses are sold.

The Government is understood to have told state-owned BNFL and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to formally approve a new sale process for BNG. BNFL and the NDA, which owns the UK's nuclear sites, had been supposed to run the process by themselves.

Fluor made the unsolicited offer for BNG last month and was even in talks with UK services company Amec last week about making a joint bid.

The US company's surprise offer came despite a U-turn by BNFL earlier last month, when it said it would sell the company piecemeal, rather than in its entirety as first planned.

But officials from the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry decided late last week that BNFL would not be allowed to sell the entire subsidiary to Fluor.

BNG operates the huge Sellafield site in Cumbria and does decommissioning work there, as well as at the UK's ageing Magnox nuclear-reactor sites. It also has a project services business that carries out other decommissioning work.

The NDA will now issue contracts for the Magnox and Sellafield sites in a bid competition. Once the new sale process has been formally approved by ministers and the NDA and BNFL, the decommissioning authority will hold an industry day for companies interested in bidding.

BNFL will be allowed to sell BNG's project services arm, worth £100m, and its stake in the AWE Trident nuclear weapons venture.

The NDA is in charge of puting the estimated £70bn worth of future clean-up contracts out to tender in competitive auctions.