The British government has decided to hold back the sale of its stake in British Energy until at least 2008, following the recent slump in the power producer's share value, the Independent On Sunday has reported.

Westminster decided earlier this year to offload a portion of its 65% stake in British Energy, the UK’s largest power producer, as part of a wider scheme to recoup funds for the Treasury.

However, after initial delays surrounding disagreements about how to organize the sell-off, the proposed move recently suffered a further setback after damaging revelations about the status of British Energy’s power stations caused the firm’s shares to lose around 30% of their value.

According to newspaper reports, seven out of British Energy’s fleet of eight nuclear power plants have serious faults. With the exception of Torness, which is operating at normal output levels, the portfolio of sites suffer from leaks, cracks and faulty systems. Hunterston B and Hinkley B stations have cracks in their boilers, while there is an underground leak at the Hartlepool reactor and Dungeness B has technical issues.

The UK government hopes to recoup around GBP2.5 billion from selling up to half of its stake in the business.