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Hitachi reviews nuclear power partnership with GE

TOKYO (Reuters) - Hitachi Ltd <6501.T>, Japan's largest electronics maker, said on Tuesday that it is reviewing the structure of its nuclear power partnership with General Electric Co <GE.N>, as it seeks to win more deals globally.

A Hitachi spokesman did not rule out the possibility of Hitachi and GE changing their investments in their joint ventures as part of an overhaul of Hitachi's global sales network, but said nothing concrete had been discussed or decided.

The nuclear power business is one of the focus areas for Hitachi -- a sprawling conglomerate of 900 group firms -- as it steers itself toward growth again after four consecutive years of losses.

It competes with the likes of Japan's Toshiba <6502.T> and France's Areva <CEPFi.PA> in nuclear power.

The Nikkei business daily reported earlier that Hitachi is considering taking control of foreign sales of nuclear equipment. Hitachi currently leads Japan sales, while GE is in charge of other markets through their partnership.

"GE has its hands full with the U.S. and isn't able to cover Asia, the Middle East and Europe," Hitachi President Hiroaki Nakanishi was quoted as telling the Nikkei in an interview.

Nakanishi also told the paper that he thought the foreign operations were not working out as Hitachi had initially expected.

But J.P. Morgan analyst Yoshiharu Izumi questioned whether it would make much difference if Hitachi took charge of its overseas nuclear sales.

"GE and Hitachi make BWRs (boiling water reactors), and they don't do PWRs (pressurized water reactors), which is growing and which Toshiba, Westinghouse and Areva offer," Izumi said.

"The main markets for the BWR-type reactors are still the United States and Japan. So I don't think there will be much difference even if Hitachi takes control."

In the nuclear segment, it and GE joined forces in 2007 and set up joint ventures in Japan and the United States.

Hitachi owns 80 percent of the Japanese venture, while GE as a 60 percent stake in the American company, which caters to the United States and other overseas markets.

The Nikkei also said Hitachi will consider locating its headquarters for some business segments, including information technology and infrastructure, overseas. It has already moved the headquarters of its hard-disk-drive segment to the United States.

Separately, the Financial Times quoted Nakanishi as saying in an interview that Europe's debt problems were having an impact on business and that some contracts had been delayed and there may be cancellations.

But the Hitachi spokesman said that while some projects were experiencing some delays, the company was not expecting any cancellations or a big impact on overall earnings.

Hitachi shares were down 3.8 percent at 358 yen in midafternoon, underperforming a 0.7 percent fall in the benchmark Nikkei average <.N225>.

(Reporting by Koustav Samanta in BANGALORE and Sachi Izumi in TOKYO; Editing by Maju Samuel and Chris Gallagher)

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