Brookfield to buy Westinghouse Electric for $4.6 bln: Reuters

An affiliate of Canadian alternative investment firm Brookfield Asset Management said on Thursday it would acquire Westinghouse Electric Co LLC, the bankrupt nuclear services company owned by Toshiba Corp, for US$4.6 billion ($5.7 billion).

Brookfield Business Partners LP and institutional partners will buy the Pittsburgh-based business using US$1 billion of equity and US$3 billion of long-term debt financing, according to a statement. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018.

The buyers are also assuming Westinghouse’s underfunded pension plan.

Westinghouse has said it is aiming to exit bankruptcy as soon as March, which would allow Toshiba to book tax benefits in the current fiscal year.

”Brookfield’s acquisition of Westinghouse reaffirms our position as the leader of the global nuclear industry,” said Westinghouse Chief Executive Officer José Emeterio Gutiérrez. Toshiba did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Westinghouse is one the world’s leading suppliers of nuclear fuel, and it provides some form of service to 80 percent of the world’s 450 commercial reactors, according to court records. Those two business lines generated combined cash flow of US$403 million on revenue of about US$3.1 billion in Westinghouse’s 2015 financial year, court records show.

However, the company suffered after it agreed to build two plants in the U.S. Southeast on fixed-price contracts. The project went billions of dollars over budget, and Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in March to escape the contracts.

New nuclear power construction globally has dropped to the lowest level in a decade following renewed safety concerns after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

One of Westinghouse’s unfinished U.S. projects, known as Vogtle in Georgia, will continue with Southern Co replacing the company as the project manager. A South Carolina project known as V.C. Summer was abandoned in July.

The lead utility behind the V.C. Summer project, Scana Corp, agreed on Wednesday to a US$7.9 billion takeover bid from Dominion Energy Inc.

Westinghouse has joined a consortium bidding to provide nuclear power in Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest new markets in the world. Bringing Westinghouse out of bankruptcy could help close a proposed deal for six of the company’s new AP1000 reactors in India.

The Brookfield group of firms is among the world’s largest investors in stable, long-lived assets such as utilities, real estate, energy and infrastructure.

“Acquiring Westinghouse definitely fits the risk approach they have,” said Mycle Schneider, an energy and nuclear policy consultant in Paris. “They buy assets in shaky situations.”

Last year, Brookfield acquired control of two owners of renewable energy projects, TerraForm Global Inc and TerraForm Power Inc, from SunEdison Inc, which had filed for Chapter 11.

In 2016, Brookfield Business Partners converted debt to a large equity stake in a Texas power producer that emerged from Chapter 11 and became Vistra Energy Corp. And in November, Brookfield Property Partners offered to buy the remaining shares in General Growth Properties Inc, adding to a large stake it purchased to bring the mall owner out of bankruptcy.

Schneider said he was surprised that Brookfield acquired Westinghouse, given that the firm has no other nuclear businesses.

Update: Brookfield Business Partners is the listed affiliate of Brookfield’s private equity group. The vehicle was created in 2016, shortly after Brookfield Capital Partners IV, the Toronto investor’s fourth mid-market PE fund, was closed at US$4 billion.

(Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Lisa Von Ahn)

(This story has been edited by Kirk Falconer, editor of PE Hub Canada)