LONDON (AP) _ Japanese electronics maker Toshiba Corp. said Monday that it was buying nuclear plant builder Westinghouse Electric Co., the U.S.-based unit of the British government's British Nuclear Fuels PLC, for $5.4 billion.
Toshiba Chief Executive Atsutoshi Nishida said the company will acquire 100 percent of Westinghouse, but was in discussion with other companies in the U.S. and Japan about their taking a minority stake.
He declined to name any of the companies Toshiba is in talks with, and said the company would retain more than 51 percent of Westinghouse to be the controlling shareholder.
Nishida said that while the price might seem quite high, Toshiba had a lot of competition for the company and that the future growth and profit potential of the business made it the correct price.
``By 2020 the market for nuclear power generation is expected to grow 50 percent compared to 2005,'' Nishida said at a London news conference. ``Toshiba is responding to this challenge by acquiring Westinghouse.''
The high-profile battle for control of Westinghouse underscores a view among global companies that energy is an industry that could grow in importance as the world confronts limited resources of oil and other fossil fuels.
Upon completion of the acquisition, Toshiba expects its nuclear power business to expand to three times the current level by 2015 as a result of operational and technological synergies, Toshiba said in a statement.
Toshiba expects to close the deal within six months and is not expecting regulatory troubles, Nishida said. Westinghouse will keep its headquarters in Pennsylvania, as well as its equipment, employees and trademarks, he said.
Mike Parker, chief executive of BNFL, said the agreement will give Westinghouse new export opportunities that will enable it to compete more effectively for new U.S. customers.
Toshiba, which makes electronic goods including DVD players, semiconductors, electric motors and power systems, is preparing for an expected surge of new investment in power plants in China, India and the U.S..
Westinghouse, which has built most of the nuclear reactors in the United States, is likely to design the plants and service them when they come online.
Parker said that Toshiba was selected after multiple rounds of bidding that began with 14 interested companies, including General Electric Co. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
BNFL announced in July that it planned to sell Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse. It announced last week that it had sold its U.S. nuclear clean-up business BNG America to Envirocare of Utah LLC. Envirocare marked the purchase by changing its name EnergySolutions.
Parker said that BNFL is also still planning to sell the British Nuclear Group division.