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ENERGY

French regulator approves state bid to renationalise power giant

France's financial markets regulator has approved the state's plan to fully control heavily indebted national power utility EDF that is to spearhead efforts to relaunch the country's nuclear industry.

French regulator approves state bid to renationalise power giant
(Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP)

The French state, which already owns 84 percent of EDF, filed a takeover offer with the regulator in October with a view to acquiring the remaining
capital at €12 per share.

The offer complies with stock market rules, the Financial Markets Authority (AMF) said in a statement.

The acquisition of the shares is due to take place up to December 8. If the French state takes its holding to 90 percent, it can force other shareholders to sell.

The entire takeover operation is expected to cost €9.7 billion.

The French government had signalled its intention to fully reabsorb EDF in July. The firm could be saddled with a record debt of €60 billion by the end
of the year.

It wants to build six new-generation nuclear reactors with an option to acquire eight others, with the strategic full acquisition of EDF aiming to send a signal of confidence.

France relies heavily on nuclear power for its electricity generation, but its oldest reactors are reaching the end of their service lives.

EDF’s efforts to build a new generation of nuclear power plants have faced massive delays and cost overruns, with some of its facilities unavailable due to corrosion problems, scheduled maintenance and strikes.

A price shield that protects French consumers from excessively high energy price hikes has also contributed to its financial struggles.

Small shareholders, mostly former and current staff, have disputed the takeover bid, asking for at least €15 per share, but their legal action has so far been unsuccessful.

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POLITICS

French minister: US green plan should be ‘wake-up call’ for EU industry

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday said Washington's $430 billion plan to spur climate-friendly technologies in the United States must be seen as a wake-up call for Europe.

French minister: US green plan should be 'wake-up call' for EU industry

The EU “must be able to sweep in front of our own door” before worrying about the effects of the US climate plan on European industry, Le Maire told AFP in Washington, where he was part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s US state visit.

Even though the EU has already “changed its approach” on promoting green industry, the US climate plan must be seen as a “wake-up call” in the European Union, he added.

Le Maire’s comments came as EU countries have poured criticism on Washington’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), seeing it as anti-competitive and a threat to European jobs, especially in the energy and auto sectors.

Subsidies for green energy

The act, designed to accelerate the US transition to a low-carbon economy, contains around $370 billion in subsidies for green energy as well as tax cuts for US-made electric cars and batteries.

Macron on Wednesday slammed the plan’s “Made in USA” provisions as “super aggressive” for European businesses.

But at a joint press conference with Macron, Biden said that he and the French leader had agreed to “discuss practical steps to coordinate and align our approaches”, though he said he would not apologize for the US plan.

Biden added the IRA was never intended to disadvantage any US allies.

Threats of retaliatory measures

Last month, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton threatened to appeal to the World Trade Organization and consider “retaliatory measures” if the United States did not reverse its subsidies.

Le Maire also criticized the EU’s own climate spending plans, arguing that they were too cumbersome and loaded with red tape.

“If the ambition is the same” as the Europeans, the United States relies on methods that “are simpler and faster”, he said.

“They put immediate and massive tax credits where we provide state aid (to specific projects) which sometimes take two years to be adopted and are too complex to implement,” said Le Maire.

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