Sumitomo Eyes 5% Stake in Westinghouse

Japanese trading house Sumitomo aims to buy a 5% stake in U.S. nuclear power company Westinghouse from Toshiba by June, company sources said on Friday.

Sumitomo has been considering a stake in Westinghouse as "an entrance fee" to secure a sure buyer for uranium it plans to produce in Kazakhstan, home to a fifth of global uranium reserves, sources have said.

The Nikkei business daily said on Friday Sumitomo will spend 30 billion yen ($254 million) to buy the stake and will sign an agreement next month and purchase the shares by June.

But Sumitomo has made no decision yet, a Sumitomo spokesman said, denying the Nikkei report that Sumitomo decided to make the purchase at a board meeting on Thursday.

Late last year, Toshiba took a 77% stake in Westinghouse, the U.S. power plant unit of British Nuclear Fuels, for $4.16 billion.

The stake was much larger than initially planned, after Japanese trading house Marubeni decided not to invest in the project. Toshiba has since been looking for new investors to share the financial burden.

Toshiba has said it expects to win about 16 orders for new nuclear power plants in the United States. Rival Japanese companies also hope to cash in on nuclear power's return to popularity amid concerns about global warming and high prices for coal, natural gas and oil.

Japan's biggest machinery maker Mitsubishi Heavy has an agreement with Areva of France to cooperate in the nuclear business, while Hitachi and U.S. conglomerate General Electric plan to pool their nuclear units. GE is the parent company of CNBC.

Earlier this month, Mitsubishi Heavy won an order to build two nuclear reactors for U.S. power plant operator TXU, in its first overseas reactor deal estimated to be worth as much as $5.2 billion. The deal did not involve Areva.

Hitachi and GE have teamed up on a bid to construct a nuclear power plant that merchant power company NRG Energy aims to build in Texas.