January 22, 2006
A different nuclear option
The special relationship, working for special interests:
George Bush has been using his special relationship with Tony Blair to push for a US company to win the fight for Westinghouse, the Pittsburgh-based nuclear business put up for sale by its current owner, British Nuclear Fuels.
The discreet lobbying emerged as final bids of about $4bn (£2.25bn) - twice its initial valuation - were submitted yesterday for Westinghouse, acquired by BNFL in 1999.
The US President voiced support for a bid by General Electric, the giant US conglomerate, in a conversation he had with the Prime Minister in recent days. America's Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, has also written to Alan Johnson, the Trade and Industry Secretary, backing GE's bid.
The efforts by Mr Bush and Mr Gutierrez reflect mounting concern on Capitol Hill about the ownership of Westinghouse, which designs and builds nuclear reactors. It has been British owned since 1999; despite this, several members of the administration do not now want it to be sold to a foreign bidder. […] Two of the final bidders are Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toshiba.
… [I]f GE were to win Westinghouse without offering the highest price, there could be a political backlash in the UK. The proceeds from the sale, minus $600m for historic clean-up liabilities, would go to the Treasury because BNFL is state owned. If Westinghouse were to go to GE for political reasons, it would be British taxpayers who would suffer financially, which could trigger calls for a judicial review of the deal.
Which if past experience is anything to go by, will approve it in a heartbeat.
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