French power giant EDF on Friday ended discussions with British Energy just hours before it was expected to announce a bid for the nuclear power operator.
Sources familiar with the matter had said just hours earlier that EDF had agreed to pay around 12 billion pounds (US$23.79 billion) to buy nuclear operator British Energy in a deal to be announced on Friday morning.
"After in-depth discussions, EDF considers that the conditions for a major development in Great Britain are not met to date," EDF said in a statement, adding it would hold a Paris news conference as planned on half-year results at 0700 GMT.
The announcement was an unexpected turnaround after sources said a deal was finally close after months of negotiations. There is no indication yet that a deal will not eventually go through, but the timing is now unclear.
The reasons behind the collapse in talks also are unknown.
On Thursday, EDF had scheduled a full news conference for Friday morning, something it does not usually do when reporting half-year results.
One source had said earlier on Thursday that the board of EDF had met that evening and approved a bid for British Energy.
The deal would have been structured as a full cash offer valued at around 770-775 pence a share, with future payments to be made if electricity prices remained high, according to the source.
British Energy has proved hard to value due to the volatile price of electricity, which has both soared and eased off during the months of negotiations.
The company supplies around a fifth of the UK's electricity, and is key to the future of new nuclear build -- given the green light by the government in January.
EDF declined to comment on the report. British Energy could not be reached for comment.