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ECONOMY

France announces €2 billion in aid for cash-strapped EDF

France has announced a cash lifeline for state-owned energy giant EDF, which is buckling under massive debt just as it embarks on a new nuclear plant programme pushed by President Emmanuel Macron.

France announces €2 billion in aid for cash-strapped EDF
State-owned energy giant EDF is buckling under massive levels of debt. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

EDF’s fortunes had already taken a hit after the government ordered it last month to cap electricity bills for French clients, even as prices have spiked on global markets.

It’s estimated that the cap will cost the company around €8 billion.

While EDF normally generates the bulk of its electricity from its network of 56 nuclear reactors across France, many are near the end of their 40-year lifespans and around a dozen have been shut or will be soon to carry out safety inspections over corrosion risks.

That will force the group to buy power on the European market, expected to cost it some €11 billion this year – even as its total debt load now stands at €43 billion.

“EDF is experiencing problems linked to reactor outages, it’s selling less nuclear power, and so it’s revenues are down and it needs financial support from the state,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio.

This month Macron announced plans to build as many as 14 new next-generation EPR2 reactors to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, which EDF has said could cost up to €50 billion.

EDF has also been corralled into buying the nuclear turbine operations in France from the American conglomerate GE, which had bought the business just six years before when Macron was finance minister.

Le Maire said the government would inject €2.1 billion as part of an upcoming capital increase, while the company announced plans to sell assets worth €3 billion in the coming years.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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