However, a person close to British Energy said EDF had been told earlier of the objections and should not have been telling the press it was a done deal when there were still problems. “Calling a press conference was stupid. They knew the [price] issue was there,” the person said.
One EDF board member said on Friday his group thought the UK government’s support for the deal would help persuade the rebellious fund managers. “The French are used to a much more interventionist state. When the state says yes or no, the others follow,” the board member said.
The collapse of the deal caught the UK government unawares. John Hutton, the business secretary, had been poised to hail the EDF acquisition today as a significant step in delivering Gordon Brown’s pledge of a new generation of nuclear reactors. Instead, the government must now deal with what Mr Hutton on Friday admitted is a “disappointing” setback to its nuclear strategy.
At the press conference that EDF had expected to use for the deal’s announcement on Friday, chief executive Pierre Gadonneix attempted to put on a brave face, saying he remained committed to building new UK nuclear plants.