Also on Wednesday, Centrica PLC, Britain's largest energy supplier, said it is in talks with EDF about an option for Centrica to buy 25 per cent of Lake Acquisitions after the EDF-British Energy deal is completed.

Centrica said it would be at the "same implied price'' as that paid by EDF for British Energy, or 774 pence a share.

Shares rise

In Paris trading on Wednesday, shares of EDF rose 5.42 per cent to $77.88. In London, shares of British Energy climbed 6.2 per cent to $14.29. Shares of Centrica rose 2.79 per cent to $6.11.

"This deal is good value for the taxpayer and a significant step towards the construction of a new generation of nuclear stations to power the country,'' Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, said in a statement.

"Nuclear is clean, secure and affordable; its expansion is crucial for Britain's long term energy security, as we reduce our oil dependence and move towards a low carbon future."

The statement said the British government had agreed to sell its 36 per cent stake for 774 pence a share.

John Hutton, the British business secretary, said the deal could improve Britain's energy mix, create jobs and offer "a wealth of opportunities for British manufacturers.''

Hutton said the recommended deal would amount to "one of the largest foreign direct investments ever made in Britain".

The British government said EDF had agreed to continue operating British Energy's eight existing nuclear power stations as well as invest in four new reactors.

UK access

The French nuclear powerhouse has been looking to gain access to new nuclear sites in Britain, which has announced plans to invest billions to develop renewable energy sources, including nuclear.

EDF is already present in Britain via its EDF energy subsidiary, which employs 13,000 people and handles 5.5 million customer accounts.

It operates two coal-fired power stations as well as a natural gas fueled power plant.

British Energy, Britain's largest electricity generator, has eight nuclear power stations and one coal-powered station.