France reconsiders stake in semi-state giants

France may sell some of its stakes in several large semi-state bodies such as Air France and SNCF, in order to pave the way for future investment, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has announced.

France reconsiders stake in semi-state giants
Is France ready to sell off some of its stakes in semi-state giants like rail network SNCF, Air France, and energy company EDF? Photos: Andy Mitchell/Karen Bryan

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced in an interview with TF1 television on Sunday that the government was considering reducing its investment in “a certain number of public companies in which the State plays a very significant role”.

The move could see the government cut some of its financial ties with giants such as EDF and Air France.    

Minister of Finance Pierre Moscovici sought to reassure the French public, however. “This is not the return of privatization,” he told French television iTele on Monday.

The proposed move could see a reduction in the government’s control over partially state-owned companies such as EDF, Air France and GDF-Suez – bodies in which it has a significant financial stake.  

During the interview with TF1, Ayrault denied that the proposed move was calculated to “fill in the holes in the budget” but rather to “fund investment” in future schemes, such as the installation of high-speed speed internet throughout the country.    

This is not the first time the government has hinted at “selling the family silver”. In April, France’s Minister for Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg told the Wall Street Journal that the government was considering changing its investments, as part of its “budgetary reorganization” and the “modernization of public politics”.

However, the minister stressed that while France did not rule out this possibility, it had “no intention of losing control over the companies.”  

Currently, the government owns 100 of rail network SNCF, 84 percent of energy supplier EDF, 36 percent of electric utility company GDF-Suez, 15.8 percent of the airline Air France, and 15 percent of carmaker Renault, according to Europe 1 radio.

Other companies that currently benefit from private-public partnerships include France Telecom and industrial conglomerate Areva.  

According to Europe 1, the government could bring in as much as €50 billion from the sale of shares in such companies.

Sunday’s announcement came one month after Montebourg announced that France had sold a 3.12 percent portion of its shares in the aeronautic equipment manufacturer Safran.

The sale brought €448.5 million to the coffers of the state, which still retains 27.08 percent of the company.

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France increases to €9,000 grants for property owners

A French scheme to provide financial aid to property owners seeking to replace oil and gas boilers with eco-friendly alternatives has been extended, with grants of up to €9,000 now available.

France increases to €9,000 grants for property owners

The French government will increase the amount of money available to replace gas and oil-powered boilers through the MaPrimeRenov’ scheme, part of a package of measures announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex on Wednesday

Environment Minister Barbara Pompili said that from April 15th, some households would be able to benefit from an extra €1,000 to “accelerate the replacement of fossil fuel-powered boilers with renewable heating solutions”, such as heat pumps and biomass heaters. 

It will no longer be possible to use state funding to replace a gas boiler with another, more efficient gas boiler. 

This brings the total state aid available for replacing boilers up to €9,000. 

Who can benefit? 

The funding for boiler replacement is available through the MaPrimeRenov’ scheme – which is available to anyone who owns property in France. 

Applicants for funding do however need a French numéro fiscal (tax number) and a copy of their latest tax declaration, which means those who do not file the annual tax declaration in France are effectively excluded. 

You can only apply for funding if your property is more than two years old. 

The amount of money you could receive depends on a range of criteria including: household income; the number of people living in the household; and the location of the property. 

You can read more about the MaPrimeRenov’ scheme HERE

Why is the government doing this? 

The move essentially allows France to faire d’une pierre deux coups – hit two birds with one stone.

One one hand, it will allow the country to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions in the face of the global climate crisis. 

On the other, it allows France to reduce its dependency on Russian gas – which has become a government priority ever since the invasion of Ukraine.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government would target and end to dependency on Russian energy by 2027. The construction of new nuclear plants announced in February will also assist in reaching this objective.

You can read more about the government’s measures to insulate the French economy from the war in Ukraine HERE