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Sat 21 Nov 2009 09:50 AM

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UAE nuclear deal seen in next few weeks

$40bn contract to build several nuclear power reactors is largest ever energy deal awarded in Mideast.

The UAE will award a $40bn contract to build several nuclear power reactors to a French consortium in the "next few weeks", the head of utility group GDF Suez said on Friday.

The grouping includes GDF Suez, nuclear engineering group Areva and oil company Total, with technical support from power utility EDF.

The French team, originally seen as the frontrunner for the deal, had appeared in recent weeks to be losing ground to a rival bid by Korean groups.

Other bidders include a consortium comprising General Electric and Japan's Hitachi and another involving Korea Electric Power Corporation, Hyundai Engineering and Construction and Samsung C&T corporation.

The contract will be the largest ever energy contract awarded in the Middle East.

The incoming head of state-controlled EDF said earlier this week in French financial daily Les Echos that the French nuclear industry should undergo a major restructuring, notably to be more competitive internationally.

"Can we allow ourselves to lose our focus while others are pooling their strength," Henri Proglio said in the newspaper.

Gerard Mestrallet, the head of GDF Suez, defended the French bid, saying that the French nuclear sector should be supported.

"Today, one should not criticise the French nuclear industry, one should support it and back it," Mestrallet said at a conference. (Reuters)

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