Electrabel takes controlling stake in French hydro owner SHEM

BRUSSELS 1/2/07 (HCI) — French utility group Suez announced its Belgian subsidiary Electrabel has increased its stake in Societe Hydro-Electrique du Midi (SHEM) to 99.6 percent from 40 percent for 504.5 million euros (US$666 million).

Suez said it bought the stake in the power group from French railway operator Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais (SNCF).

“This transaction … illustrates the policy of the group to be a major actor on the French energy market,” Suez said.

In 2005, the board of SHEM approved Electrabel’s purchase of the 40 percent stake in the French hydropower utility. Prior to that time SNCF had been 99.6 percent owner.

SHEM operates 49 hydroelectric plants totaling 773 MW under concession at 12 sites on rivers or dams. Electrabel has been buying and reselling the total annual output of SHEM’s power stations since May 2003.

In 2002, Electrabel won agreement to buy 11.4 percent of French hydropower producer Compagnie Nationale du Rhone (CNR). CNR owns 18 hydro plants on the Rhone River ranging from 40 MW to 400 MW and totaling 2,937 MW.

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