Media speculation is mounting ahead of the UK government's sale of part of its majority holding in nuclear generator British Energy, with France's EdF touted as a possible bidder.

The move was widely anticipated following comments from the chancellor Gordon Brown that the government would consider selling part of its 65% share after the energy review.

The sale of the stake is set to raise up to GBP3 billion, the Sunday Times claims. British Energy looks likely to play a crucial role in the planned investment in new nuclear plants, given that it owns many of the existing reactor sites. It is envisaged that most if not all the new reactors will be built on the currently-used sites.

The government is trying hard to attract the private sector to the new build program, although it has already stated that there will be no overt state aid for the project. The major power generators in the UK market, led by Germany-based duo RWE and E.ON, are likely to be drawn to the British Energy stake, but most interest is likely to focus on Electricite de France (EdF), owner of UK utility EDF Energy. EdF operates an extensive portfolio of nuclear stations in its home market, where 80% of electricity is generated this way.