* Covers three nuclear generating stations in UK
* EDF Energy could sell a further 15% in Hinkley Point C, company says
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EDF Energy and Chinese state-owned nuclear company China General Nuclear Corporation signed a strategic investment agreement for the joint development of three UK nuclear generating stations, the UK government and EDF Energy said in separate statements Wednesday.
The signing was timed to coincide with a state visit to the UK by Chinese President Xi Jinping and a series of meetings over four days between Xi and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
Under the agreement, EDF's share in the planned two-reactor Hinkley Point C station will be 66.5% and CGN's will be 33.5%, according to EDF Energy.
The company added that "without reducing this initial stake below 50%, EDF intends in due course to bring other investors into the project," noting that it could eventually sell a 15% stake in the station to an external investor.
EDF Energy said that the signing "paves the way for the Hinkley Point C project to go ahead and sets the steps for a final investment decision," subject to several conditions.
The conditions include "finalisation of long form documentation based on Head of Terms agreed today [October 21], finalisation by EDF of its financing plan, approval by the boards of EDF and CGN and clearance by merger control and other governmental authorities in China and Europe."
The strategic investment agreement also covers a "wider UK partnership" between EDF Energy, the UK government and CGN for the development of a two-reactor station at Sizewell C in Ipswich on the east coast of England, and another station at Bradwell B in Essex outside London.
EDF Energy said that it would complete the long-delayed final investment for Hinkley Point C by the end of this year.
The agreement was welcomed by the UK government and nuclear groups, with Cameron characterizing it as an "historic deal."
World Nuclear Association director general Agneta Rising said in a statement that "new nuclear construction around the world is at the highest level for 25 years, but we need to see more countries learning from the UK's example to support nuclear energy among a mix of generation technologies that are fit for the future."
Alan Raymant, the chief operating officer of Horizon Nuclear Power, the Hitachi subsidiary that plans to build new nuclear stations at Wylfa in north Wales and Oldbury in Gloucestershire in western England, likewise hailed the agreement, calling it a "major step forward for nuclear new build in the UK."