Water and waste-treatment company Suez SA, which is seeking to escape a takeover approach by French rival Veolia Environnement SA, must remain mostly owned by French interests if alternative bids arise, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
Veolia offered last week to buy a 29.9% stake in Suez from Engie SA, the first step to a full takeover to create a utility giant that would have revenue of more than 40 billion euros ($47 billion) as global warming and pollution boost the need to recycle resources and treat hazardous products. Suez Chief Executive Officer Bertrand Camus has called the offer “particularly hostile.”
All potential offers “will be considered with the same fairness,” Le Maire said Sunday on Europe 1 radio and Cnews television. “Whatever the offer,” the government wants “a shareholdership that’s French in majority,” which is the case with Veolia, he said.
The French government, which owns 24% of Engie, will make the preservation of jobs at Suez and its French industrial footprint the top priority, Le Maire reiterated.
Asked about Veolia’s 15.5 euro-per-share offer for the Suez stake owned by Engie and its pledge to preserve French jobs, Le Maire said “any offer can always be improved.”
Engie Chairman Jean-Pierre Clamadieu has said Veolia’s 2.9 billion-euro offer for most of its stake in Suez is too low, and urged both parties to hold talks.
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