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EdF May Bid Battle for British Energy: Source

Electricite de France may join the 11 billion pound ($22 billion) bid battle for nuclear power firm British Energy, but will not overpay, a source close to the matter said on Friday.

Utilities across Europe are stalking British Energy, which is the UK's only private nuclear power generator and is 35 percent owned by the British government, to take advantage of the country's new drive towards nuclear power.

The source said state-controlled EDF, the world's biggest single producer of nuclear power, was considering a bid pitched below 700 pence a share.

A report in the Times newspaper earlier on Friday said it was planning to offer above that level.

EDF and British Energy declined to comment.

Sources close to the matter told Reuters on Thursday that Germany's RWE had already made a bid proposal of just under 700 pence a share in cash and that Britain's Centrica had proposed an all-share deal.

"EDF will maintain price discipline," the source said, adding EDF hoped to use its record and expertise as Europe's biggest nuclear operator to win over the British government.

However, British Energy shares were up 0.7 percent at 745 pence, signaling investors hope a takeover battle will drive the price of current bid proposals much higher.

EDF shares were up 1.6 percent at 60.8 euros.

EDF has said it is considering acquisitions in Spain and Belgium and consolidating its positions in Britain, Italy and Germany.

It has been linked for months to a possible bid for Spain's Iberdrola.

The Times said final bids for British Energy were due within weeks and quoted one source as saying a sale could be wrapped up by July.