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In the interest of national security, The telecoms dilema, Not convertible to Maastricht, Hardly a model, Measuring the world.

Mention the fat fees to be earned from privatization and the last place most investment bankers would think to go hunting for them is the US. But there is a privatization programme under way in the US, and 1996 is likely to witness the first sell-off since the Philadelphia-based Consolidated Rail Corp (Conrail) was returned to the private sector in the early 1980s.

It's an unusual transaction. On the block is United States Enrichment Corp (USEC), a government-owned entity which currently has an 88% share of the domestic uranium-enrichment business and a 40% share worldwide. Its line of business, together with its role as a buyer of uranium from decommissioned nuclear warheads in Russia, make the USEC deal subject to special considerations.

Legislation sets out four statutory requirements for the sale. In addition to maximizing the benefit to the US taxpayer, the stated objectives are to ensure a continuing source of domestic uranium-enrichment services; to create a viable private corporation without any need for future government support; and to "support the nation's national security objectives".

This last point is linked to USEC's role in implementing the swords into ploughshares contract that the US signed with Russia in the wake of the end of the Cold War.

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