Areva to keep strategy under new head: minister

PARIS, June 17, 2011 (AFP) - French nuclear giant Areva will undergo minor changes to its business plan but no major strategic shift when the government replaces its boss, Anne Lauvergeon, France's industry minister said on Friday.

"This is not a strategic change in direction for the company," minister Eric Besson told AFP, after the government announced that Lauvergeon's deputy Luc Oursel would replace her at the head of the state-held enterprise, one of the world's biggest nuclear energy companies.

"On the contrary, we are going to ask Luc Oursel to continue pursuing the various strategic options, even though there will clearly be a certain number of changes linked to Areva's industrial activity, in the new international context," he added.

Public alarm over the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan caused by an earthquake in March has driven some countries to reconsider their stance on nuclear energy.

Besson insisted Areva was "well armed" to deal with the shift in attitudes to the sector.

Lauvergeon's supporters had been pressing her case for another term at Areva but it was widely believed French President Nicolas Sarkozy did not want her to continue in the post. The French state holds some 90 percent of Areva.

"It is a natural renewal," Besson said, hailing Lauvergeon's "good record."

"It is not illogical and not shocking that after 10 years at the head of a public company there be a change of leadership," he added.

He did not specify what changes might take place, saying only they would be a response to "the market, industrial policy and developments in international markets and clients."

A statement from Lauvergeon's office Friday said that she "asks all Areva employees to continue the work undertaken to develop the group and hopes the transition will take place in the best possible conditions."

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