British Energy calls Maitland for crisis job

LONDON - Loss-making nuclear giant British Energy is bolstering its crisis PR effort as shares in the group continue to dive despite a £410m government lifeline.

Details emerged this week that chief executive Robin Jeffrey has called in financial PR specialist Angus Maitland of The Maitland Consultancy, as part of a personal advisory team also comprising legal and banking experts.

The company has only three weeks to secure a permanent rescue package, and was close to bankruptcy before securing the working capital facility from the Department of Trade and Industry this week.

It has now beefed up its external adviser support in the face of a share price plunge of more than 65 per cent in a matter of days.

BE -- which provides more than 20 per cent of UK electricity -- has also expanded retained agency Gavin Anderson's IR remit to cover media handling as enquiries flood in.

The nuclear group refused to comment on its communications advisers, but it is understood 12-year retained consultancy Hill & Knowlton is continuing to handle public affairs issues.

Maitland confirmed he was advising BE chairman and CEO Robin Jeffrey on City-related matters, but remained tight-lipped as to the nature of the brief.

'The company is going through a difficult period and the work we are doing for the client is confidential,' Maitland said.

It is believed BE has enlisted Gavin Anderson's media relations staff to help the in-house PR team -- headed by director of corporate services Irene Clark -- cope with increased media attention.

The financial crisis at BE was only slightly relieved by this week's emergency Government handout, which will only serve to keep the group afloat until the end of the month.

BE, which was privatised six years ago, now has to restructure its finances and negotiate future funding to avoid bankruptcy.

Reports on Wednesday suggested the company is considering selling its 50 per cent stake in US nuclear power generator AmerGen Energy, which could raise up to £318m.

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