Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

FRANCE’s Areva, one of the frontrunners to build SA’s new nuclear power stations, on Thursday delayed the publication of its 2015 results by a day due to a financial crunch.

Areva, majority-owned by the French state, said on its website that it had secured a €1.1bn bridging loan "to ensure the company’s liquidity for the 2016 fiscal year".

It is expected the company will show its fifth consecutive operational loss, mainly on ballooning costs for its long delayed nuclear reactor project in Finland.

The financial difficulties that have plagued the nuclear contractor have the potential to curb its ambitions of building SA’s proposed nuclear plants. That leaves Russia’s Rosatom in pole position to benefit if procurement goes ahead.

Asked whether its financial difficulties would imperil its chances of winning big contract work in SA including its controversial contract to replace six steam generators at Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear power station, Areva said it could not comment as it was still in a closed period on Thursday.

"The majority of (the questions) will be addressed (today)," it said.

Implying it was insolvent, Areva’s statement said the board had examined the company’s financial statements and decided to delay the publication of the results.

A board cannot sign off financial accounts without the certainty that a company will remain a going concern for the following 12-month period.

News agency Reuters, citing French newspaper Le Monde, said the government had strong-armed six reluctant banks — Société Générale, Credit Agricole, BNP Paribas, Natixis, Credit Mutuel and HSBC — into extending the credit line.

The value of Areva’s shares on the Euronext Paris stock exchange has collapsed in the past 12 months, from last February’s high of €9.85 to €3.68 on Wednesday.

Trading in Areva stock was suspended before the market opened on Thursday.

Areva has a €975m bond due for settlement on September 23.

In January, it had given its CEO a mandate to finalise talks about the possible acquisition of a majority stake by fellow state-controlled entity Électricité de France, it said on its website.

But the transaction would be completed only next year, too late to ensure going-concern status for the year.