France kick-starts privatisation plan with €1.5bn asset sale

The sale of a 4.5 percent stake in utility firm Engie SA will help finance the French government’s €10bn innovation fund

 
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is saying goodbye to some of the state's Engie shares, as the French Government looks to rid itself of 'non-strategic' assets 
Author: Barclay Ballard
September 6, 2017

The French Government has announced the sale of a 4.5 percent stake in utility firm Engie, kick-starting France’s privatisation strategy. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire confirmed that funds from the sale, confirmed on September 5, which amount to €1.53bn ($1.8bn), would be used to finance the country’s innovation fund.

The divestment represents the first concrete action taken as part of France’s €10bn asset sales plan. However, the Finance Ministry did declare that it would continue to play a leading role in Engie’s “strategic transformation”. Despite the sale, the French state will remain the largest shareholder in the company and retain a third of voting rights.

New French President Emmanuel Macron has set his sights on overhauling France’s labour market

In order for France to fund its ambitious innovation strategy, additional businesses that are not deemed to be of strategic importance to the state are set to be sold over the coming months. Although it has not been confirmed which organisations are likely to be privatised next, banking sources told Reuters that airport operator ADP and the national lottery could be put up for sale this autumn.

New French President Emmanuel Macron has set his sights on overhauling France’s labour market and reducing the country’s 9.5 percent unemployment rate. However, with Macron also promising to cut the national deficit, the French Government must raise funds from asset sales before it can commit to further spending.

Speaking in early July, shortly after the innovation fund had been announced, Macron reaffirmed his pro-business credentials by promising to turn France into a “start-up nation”. Since then, however, the political newcomer has seen his approval rating plummet following controversial labour reforms and clashes with trade unions. The new president will be hoping his innovation fund and wider economic policies yield positive results, for France’s sake and his own.