updated 2/6/2006 7:38:22 AM ET 2006-02-06T12:38:22

Japanese electronics maker Toshiba Corp. said Monday that it was buying nuclear plant builder Westinghouse Electric Co., the U.S.-based unit of the British government’s British Nuclear Fuels PLC, for $5.4 billion.

Toshiba Chief Executive Atsutoshi Nishida said the company will acquire 100 percent of Westinghouse, but was in discussion with other companies in the U.S. and Japan about their taking a minority stake.

He declined to name any of the companies Toshiba is in talks with, and said the company would retain more than 51 percent of Westinghouse to be the controlling shareholder.

Nishida said that while the price might seem quite high, Toshiba had a lot of competition for the company and that the future growth and profit potential of the business made it the correct price.

“By 2020 the market for nuclear power generation is expected to grow 50 percent compared to 2005,” Nishida said at a London news conference. “Toshiba is responding to this challenge by acquiring Westinghouse.”

The high-profile battle for control of Westinghouse underscores a view among global companies that energy is an industry that could grow in importance as the world confronts limited resources of oil and other fossil fuels.

Toshiba expects to close the deal within six months and is not expecting regulatory troubles, Nishida said.

Westinghouse will keep its headquarters in Pennsylvania, as well as its equipment, employees and trademarks, he said.

Mike Parker, chief executive of BNFL, said the agreement will give Westinghouse new export opportunities to compete more effectively for new U.S. customers.

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