France to nationalise its biggest shipyard after standoff with Italy

Paterniano Del Favero
Luglio 27, 2017

Paris and Rome are at loggerheads after President Macron jettisoned his pro-business agenda and threatened to nationalise France's leading shipyard to prevent its takeover by Fincantieri. It also crosses into the defence sector, where many national governments prefer to wield influence over ownership.

That prompted the French state, which had a minority stake, to exercise pre-emption rights to buy out other shareholders before those rights expire at the end of the month, in effect giving Paris more time to come up with another solution.

Le Maire estimated the cost of the operation to the state at "around 80 million euros" and said it would be recouped when Paris reached an agreement with Italy's state-owned shipbuilder Fincanctieri on splitting ownership.

Le Maire said the decision was aimed at protecting France's "strategic interests".

The shipyard in the western port of Saint-Nazaire - which has turned out some of the world's biggest cruise liners and also builds warships - had unique know-how that should not be lost to overseas, he argued.

"The aim is not to nationalize Saint-Nazaire, but we have to temporarily", Le Monde reported a source close to the matter as saying, referring to the site where the shipyard is located on France's Atlantic coast.

The decision flies in the face of any expectations that Macron, who in his former post as economy minister sought to liberalise swathes of the economy, would break with the French state's tradition of intervention in business.

While he was economy minister under his presidential predecessor Francois Hollande, he forced through a shareholder vote that increased the government's power over carmaker Renault, falling out with its boss in the process.

Since becoming president in May, he has also forced carmakers to help fund a failing parts manufacturer.

Macron was elected on promises to boost growth by lifting constraints on business, and his government has flagged plans to privatise non-strategic state holdings while easing labour regulations.

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