The Areva Group, the world's biggest nuclear-energy giant, opened its China representative office in Beijing at the weekend to better explore the huge market potential in the country.
Anne Lauvergeon, chairwoman of the group's executive board, said that the French state-owned nuclear holding company sees the establishment of the China office as the result of a long history of co-operation with the Chinese nuclear-power industry and the expression of the group's strong desire to remain close to the world's most populous market.
"The immense China market is of great importance for us. We established our Beijing office in order to further facilitate our increasing businesses in China and rev up Areva's localization process in the country," said Lauvergeon.
Areva has been heavily involved in China's nuclear-power industry for more than a decade. The group has - through trade in equipment and technology transfers by Cogema and Framatome ANP (Advanced Nuclear Power), now nuclear subsidiaries of the group - established a distinct presence in all three commercial nuclear-power plants in the country - Daya Bay, Ling'ao near Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province and Qinshan in East China's Zhejiang Province on the east coast.
Approximately US$2 billion worth of contracts have been clinched by Areva and previously by Framatome to supply equipment for the Daya Bay and Ling'ao power plants over the past 17 years, according to Rene de Preneuf, general representative of the Areva China office.
Areva was launched in September 2001, based on the combined forces of the French atomic-energy authority CEA-Industrie, Cogema and Framatome and Framatome Connectors International.
Xu Yuming, deputy director of the China Atomic Energy Authority, said: "Developing nuclear energy is a necessary option for China to refine its energy mix and reduce pollution.
"We have been working closely with Areva and its predecessors in developing our nuclear-power industry and we look forward to further co-operation with the company," said Xu.
Areva, also among the world's top three producers of connectors for information technology, telecommunications and automobile companies, hopes that its connectors business in China will grow as well after the launch of its Beijing office.
In response to a news report last week that Areva was considering selling its connectors business, Lauvergeon told China Daily in an exclusive interview that her company will not take such action any time soon.
"The connectors business is operating in a difficult context, given the continuing slump in the world's telecom market. But we hope the connectors sector will break even by the end of 2003," said Lauvergeon.
She said Areva would not change its strategy in operating its connectors business in China, which is estimated to be worth millions of US dollars.