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US News Suez places its water activity under the protection of a foundation to defend itself from Veolia

23:40  23 september  2020
23:40  23 september  2020 Source:   latribune.fr

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  Suez place son activité eau sous la protection d'une fondation pour se défendre de Veolia © Supplied by La Tribune

"Ultimatum", "butchering" ... the tone has been raised a notch between the management of Suez and Veolia, who were successively auditioned in the National Assembly, while in the evening Suez sought to thwart Veolia's plans by announcing a legal device making its French Water branch unassignable for four years. It will now be up to Engie, whose main shareholder is the State, to decide: sell or not its 29.9% stake in Suez to Veolia, which has submitted an offer of 2.9 billion euros valid until to September 30.

The clock is ticking and the tone is rising

In front of the deputies meeting in the enlarged committee of Finance, the Economy and local communities, the leaders of Suez, who refuse their merger with Veolia, deplored the lack of time to act.

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"I do not see why Engie, of which the State is a 23.6% shareholder, would accept a four week ultimatum on such a fundamental subject. We need a little time to prepare alternative offers" to that of Veolia, "which does not seem acceptable to us", declared its chairman Philippe Varin.

At the following hearing, the answer was quick: "No, I will not postpone the validity date of my offer to Engie", declared the CEO of Veolia, Antoine Frérot.

"Every day that passes, Suez sells a new activity, yesterday it was an activity in Sweden, the day before it was in Germany ... Of the 90,000 employees of Suez, 13,000 have been sold for a month and a half. Will there be any left over for Christmas? "

"A project in the interest of the nation"

The world leader in environmental services, by launching a takeover bid on its old enemy Suez, wants to create a "French super champion" in the sector, in a global market of more and more sustained and competitive.

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"A project in the interest of the nation", said its CEO, who points out that, for example, today "the number two waste in Germany and Spain is Chinese".

But Suez cries out for "dismantling". The group invokes its own potential, its strategic plan and its disposals to enable it to acquire cutting-edge activities. According to its managing director Bertrand Camus, this takeover would be "an alchemy in reverse, to transform gold into lead".

Suez has also seized the Financial Markets Authority (AMF) and the European Competition Authority to contest the two-stage structure of Veolia's offer, according to Philipppe Varin.

After Jean Castex's first rather positive statements with regard to Veolia, Suez also called on the State to be neutral.

"That the State also encourage investors who are more or less under its responsibility to be able to compete if they want, because they have so far been content with an extremely cautious position, not knowing well how the wind would turn, "said Mr. Varin, who hopes, in his plan B, a mix of French investors, particularly public or closely linked to the State, and foreign" some of whom are already our partners.

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In front of them, the elected officials expressed a great deal of fears about the consequences of the project, on the price of water, the maintenance of competition, investment, employment ...

Veolia considers that the water activity France de Suez be taken over by the Meridiam fund, in order to meet competition requirements.

Meridiam is "a very long-term investment tool", which "will preserve all jobs", research, and moderate debt: "we are not a speculation fund in search of rapid profitability, we claim our commitment in the public good, "assured Thierry Déau, boss of the fund.

Wednesday evening, Suez counter-attacked by announcing that it had "legally ensured the sustainability of Suez Eau France within the Suez group" by making "inalienable" for four years any sale of the water activity in France without the agreement of the shareholders and 'a foundation under Dutch law created for the occasion.

The National Assembly will for its part create a working group of six deputies to quickly hear all the parties, unions or even CEO of Engie. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Engie is meeting its next board of directors on Friday evening, while Veolia said it was ready to discuss the amount offered.

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