Business / Corporate

Brookfield agrees to buy Westinghouse’s global nuclear business from Toshiba

by Tiffany Kary and Scott Deveau

Bloomberg

The future of Westinghouse Electric Co.’s global nuclear business now rests in the hands of Brookfield Asset Management Inc.’s private equity arm.

Canada’s biggest alternative asset manager agreed to buy what remains of the former nuclear energy powerhouse’s U.S. business, as well as its non-bankrupt European business, for $4.6 billion. It’s the first foray into the nuclear sector for Brookfield Business Partners LP, a publicly traded unit.

The deal marks a positive turn in a long saga of financial woes stemming from U.S. reactor projects that dragged Westinghouse into bankruptcy, ensnared its parent, Toshiba Corp., and also battered U.S. utilities that had taken on their construction.

“Brookfield’s acquisition of Westinghouse reaffirms our position as the leader of the global nuclear industry,” Westinghouse Chief Executive Officer Jose Emeterio Gutierrez said in a Thursday statement. He said the deal will transform the company into a stronger, more streamlined business.

Brookfield has a plan to reorganize its bankrupt U.S. assets as well, according to a person with knowledge of the sale. The deal, which still needs court and regulatory approval, was reached last night, said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity because some details are not yet public.

The transaction is expected to be funded with approximately $1 billion of equity, approximately $3 billion of long-term debt financing, and the balance by the assumption of certain pension, environmental and other operating obligations, according to a statement from Brookfield. Brookfield Business Partners said it will fund roughly half of the equity on closing using existing funds, and may syndicate some of the investment to other institutional investors at a later date.

Blackstone Group LP and Apollo Global Management LLC had teamed up on a competing bid for the company, and Cerberus Capital Management LP had also submitted a bid, according to a different person with knowledge of the matter, who also asked not be identified because the bidding was private. The firms had been reported for months to be circling the assets, and Apollo had also faced competition to extend an operating loan to the company at the outset of its bankruptcy.

Representatives for Blackstone and Apollo weren’t immediately available for comment. Cerberus declined to comment.

Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a non-executive director at Blackstone.

“Westinghouse is a high-quality business that has established itself as a leader in its field, with a long-term customer base and a reputation for innovation,” Cyrus Madon, CEO of Brookfield Business Partners, said in the statement.

Since filing for bankruptcy in March Westinghouse has said it plans to get out of the business of building new reactors and focus on servicing them, including decommissioning work. Since then, reports have surfaced that the Trump administration is encouraging Saudi Arabia to consider bids by Westinghouse and other U.S. companies to build reactors — which could be politically controversial considering previous U.S. agreements have prohibited the enrichment of uranium.

The deal won’t include what had been the company’s most prized projects — plans to build its AP1000 reactors for U.S. utilities in South Carolina and Georgia. Those projects, plagued by delays and cost overruns, eventually led to its downfall, and Westinghouse has used the Chapter 11 process to distance itself from any obligations to them.

Toshiba had bought Westinghouse Electric for $5.4 billion in 2006, before a wave of industry troubles including Japan’s 2011 Fukushima meltdown and an abundance of cheap natural gas in the U.S.