France's State-controlled nuclear giant Areva lost €2.4 billion ($3.2 billion) in 2011, much of that on the back of a troubled uranium mining venture that has been the subject of investigation.
Thursday's dismal figures reflect a difficult year for the nuclear plant operator, which is also facing a global rethink of the future of atomic energy in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster. For instance, Germany has decided to shut down all of its plants by 2022, forcing Areva to lay off staff in that country. It has also instituted a partial hiring freeze in France and suspended projects.
Last year also saw the departure of charismatic chief executive Anne Lauvergeon, known as “Atomic Anne,” after she lost the support of the French government. Her tenure has come under scrutiny because the mining subsidiary, UraMin, was acquired in 2007, while she was in charge. The company's internal review of the acquisition found no evidence of fraud, but recommended more oversight for future purchases. Areva, which reports its annual sales and profit figures separately, had previously said that its revenue fell 2.6 percent to €8.87 billion last year. The company's loss of €2.42 for last year billion compares with a small profit in 2010 of €883 million.
The figures were even worse than the company's own guidance, issued just a few weeks ago. When it announced its revenue numbers, CEO Luc Oursel had said he was anticipating an operating loss of between €1.4 billion and €1.6 billion. The largest hit was seen in the mining group, where it booked a charge of €1.46 billion for UraMin. But most business groups saw operating losses. Oursel contended, however, that the worst was behind Areva and that his turnaround plan was already yielding results. “In a difficult context, the slight decline in revenue in 2011 demonstrates the robustness of Areva's integrated model,” he said.