The Franco-French standoff has started again. The economic and legal fight that began several months ago between the two world giants of water distribution experienced a new rebound on Sunday.
Suez (90,000 employees), driven out since August and the announcement of Veolia (180,000 employees) to buy from Engie 29.9% of the shares of Suez against 2.9 billion euros, announced to have obtained the support of the funds French Ardian and American Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) to offer a “friendly” and “quick” solution to Veolia, in order to get out of the “blockage”. In short, among the different scenarios being studied, one of them would include buying back the shares acquired by Veolia.
Veolia refused this offer very quickly
A real counter-attack while on Friday, the summary judge of the Paris court declared himself “incompetent” in the face of Veolia’s request to unblock the acquisition transaction frozen since October.
A proposal to end the crisis that Veolia refused very quickly on Sunday evening. The file which moved on the legal ground thus is completely at the stop. In fact, at the heart of the many proceedings brought by the two camps, the courts in particular suspended the effects of the takeover by Veolia of the 29.9% of Suez. Veolia cannot exercise the voting rights associated with its participation.
Mayors worried about the future and prices
A complex situation which worried the mayors, the first spectators and potential victims of less competition. In October, Philippe Laurent, secretary general of the Association of Mayors of France (AMF), requested that the takeover transaction be audited and appraised by the Competition Authority. He declared in an interview with the Parisian to fear “a monopolistic situation […] on a collective good that is water ”.
Because in addition to employees, worried about their future, it is also communities and consumers who could be impacted. In some departments, such as Oise, the notion of competition is already questioned by some elected officials and a merger would be catastrophic.
The State, for its part, would not be against the idea of having a French champion in the water sector but had called for “not to rush”, via the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire . If the parties agree, he asks for guarantees on employment. In October, he even voted against the sale of shares in Engie, of which he is a shareholder, to Veolia. In vain, since Engie’s board of directors validates the sale of 29.9% of Suez to Veolia.