French energy firm EDF has agreed to buy British Energy, the UK's largest electricity producer, in a £12.5bn deal. EDF returned with an improved bid for the British firm after its initial approach was blocked by shareholders in July. Providing the deal gets the go-ahead, EDF has pledged to build a new generation of nuclear reactors in the UK.
- The reaction
'Good value for the taxpayer,' was Gordon Brown's judgement. But some papers felt 'selling off' Britain's nuclear industry to a company that is more than 80 per cent owned by the French state was a timely indictment of the UK economy. Consumer groups expressed concern that the disappearance of another independent utility company could result in higher bills. Such critics would hardly have been placated by Vincent de Rivaz, head of EDF in the UK, who told them to 'stop whingeing' in The Observer.
- Who are the PR players here?
Both businesses have strong in-house PR teams as well as agency support. EDF's comms operation is led by Andrew Brown, director of corporate comms, and the firm uses Brunswick for corporate media relations. James Garthwaite is British Energy's head of comms and the firm uses FD on a retained basis.
- What happens next?
The deal still needs shareholder and regulatory approval. News broke on Monday that M&G, which owns five per cent of British Energy and helped block EDF's first offer, is not happy as it says the bid undervalues the firm. The Daily Telegraph said that M&G feels that regulatory bodies could yet 'spring a surprise' and scupper the deal. There is also a longer PR game at stake, with hard work needed to win the UK public over to the benefits of nuclear fuel.
20% - Percentage of UK energy made by nuclear power.