"I think we will see one of two outcomes: a much higher sale price or British government intervention to nix the sale."
Well, I was right when I said that about British Nuclear Fuels' (BNFL) sale of Westinghouse back in July. But when I predicted a higher sale price, I didn't think it would go this much higher than the $1.8 billion Mitsubishi offered to start the bidding. On Sunday, Britain's The Independent reported that the field of 12 unsolicited bidders interested in acquiring BNFL's nuclear power plant-building subsidiary, Westinghouse, has been narrowed first to three finalists. Then to one. And that one is Japan's Toshiba.
According to The Independent, even BNFL itself was surprised at the price Toshiba is willing to pay to acquire Westinghouse. Apparently, the most that BNFL had been hoping to receive was a modest raise to somewhere south of $2.5 billion. As it turns out, Toshiba is willing to go as high as $5 billion to beat out the other two short-listed candidates: first bidder Mitsubishi and American powerhouse (pun intended) General Electric
Not everyone is happy with the result, however. (And to be precise, the "result" isn't even entirely final yet.) But, after submitting the highest bid, Toshiba will probably be named the "preferred bidder" when BNFL holds a board meeting to review the bids on Thursday.) As we've discussed previously, the British "Prospect" labor union didn't want the subsidiary sold at all. Instead, the union wanted it to remain under the control of state-owned BNFL. Meanwhile, both President Bush and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez are said to have been lobbying the Brits to pick GE as the winning bidder so that the U.S. can reclaim Westinghouse, which was once an American-owned company.
One has to wonder, however, whether all of the political pressure may have actually pushed Westinghouse out of GE's grasp. If GE thought it had a lock on its target, perhaps it bid less than it might have otherwise thought necessary to win -- thereby allowing Toshiba to more easily trump GE's bid.
Still, GE may have one final shot to get at least a piece of Westinghouse. Mindful of U.S. sensitivities to having one of its former technological gems moving even further out of American control, Toshiba is said to be thinking about inviting one or more U.S. companies to take minority stakes in Westinghouse after its win becomes official. Fluor
Interested in investing in nuclear power? Inform yourself with these insightful articles :
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above.