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France slams Ford’s ‘shameful’ move to shut Bordeaux car plant

The French government on Tuesday denounced a decision by US automaker Ford to shutter a plant making gear boxes near Bordeaux, after the company rejected a takeover bid that could have saved some of the 800 jobs at the site.

France slams Ford's 'shameful' move to shut Bordeaux car plant
Photo: AFP

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux accused Ford executives of taking a “shameful attitude” in refusing a final offer from Franco-Belgian equipment manufacturer Punch Powerglide on Monday.

French officials had hailed the improved bid lodged by the Strasbourg-based Punch-Powerglide last week, which could have allowed around half the employees to keep their jobs.

In return unions had agreed to a pay freeze and more flexible working hours. “We will make them (Ford) pay for the laid-off employees, for the clean-up of the site, and for new industrialisation efforts for the region,” Griveaux told France Info radio.

But he said the government would not try to claw back some 15 million euros ($17 million) in state aid received by Ford in recent years, as sought by Philippe Poutou, a trade union official at the site who ran for president against Emmanuel Macron in 2017.

“I understand Mr Poutou's anger… but in a state governed by the rule of law, you cannot demand that this aid be repaid,” he said.

He also ruled out nationalising the site, saying the best way forward was “to find ways to diversify the industrial activities” at the Blanquefort site in southwest France.

Ford, which announced the closure nearly a year ago, had said it did not consider Punch Powerglide's plan convincing, and unions themselves had noted the offer was not accompanied by guarantees of sufficient client orders to sustain the site over the long term. 

“We are aware of the consequences this decision to halt production will have on our workers, their families and the local community,” Ford said Monday.

It said it would help laid off workers retrain to find new jobs, without providing details on how much it would spend on severance and other measures.

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BUSINESS

France’s Mediawan buys majority stake in Brad Pitt’s Plan B

French media company Mediawan has bought a majority stake in US film star Brad Pitt's production house Plan B Entertainment, it said Friday, in a deal reportedly worth more than $300 million.

France's Mediawan buys majority stake in Brad Pitt's Plan B

Plan B, co-founded by Pitt in the early 2000s with his then-wife Jennifer Aniston has three best picture Oscar winners to its name: “The Departed”, “Twelve Years a Slave” and “Moonlight”.

The deal “marks the deployment of Mediawan into the American market,” the French company said in a press release which did not say how much the deal was worth.

The Financial Times reported the deal had valued Plan B Entertainment at more than $300 million.

“Cinema is becoming international. Talents are emerging all over the world,” Pitt said in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper. “For our future projects, we have to look outside the United States.”

With Mediawan “we have the same conception of how to produce films and series,” he added.

In a press release Mediawan CEO Pierre-Antoine Capton said the deal was “an exceptional opportunity to be able to develop Mediawan alongside Plan B, the most beautiful independent production company in the US.”

Founded in 2015 Mediawan produces and distributes films, series and streaming shows and has recently snapped up several production houses across Europe.

It produced the hit Netflix show “Call My Agent.”

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