Suez CEO Bertrand Camus, spoke on Sunday to the French daily Le Figaro on the proposal Veolia launched last Sunday offering 2.9 billion euros (US$3.4 billion) to purchase 29.9 per cent of Engie’s stake in Suez, saying the offer would be “disastrous for France”.
“Suez does not need to get married: we are already the world leader in water distribution, serving 145 million people,” said Camus.
He added that this was an “opportunistic financial operation”, that underrates Suez assets and “underestimates competition issues and execution risk”.
“Veolia’s proposal plans to dismantle 40% of our business in France. The 500 million in savings it envisages will have an impact on thousands of jobs in France as well as for all our clients around the world.”
Veolia’s offer – to be paid in cash – is an opportunity according to Veolia CEO, Antoine Frérot, to build the French world champion in ecological transformation to see off emerging competition from China. However, Camus warned: “We have two world champions in France, and we risk ending up with a single, weakened player.”
Suez is working on several scenarios regarding the buyout of Engie’s stake, said Camus.
Chairman of Engie Jean-Pierre Clamadieu said on Friday that Veolia’s proposal to purchase the majority of the company’s stake in Suez was too low. He encouraged Veolia to offer a higher bid for the Suez shares and asked Suez and Veolia to talk to see if Veolia could raise its proposal and make the offer more “inclusive” for Suez’s management and employees.
Bruno Le Maire, Finance Minister of France, announced earlier on Sunday, that the country will impartially examine Veolia’s offer for Engie’s stake in Suez and any other proposal that might come up.
Le Maire also added that any proposal should preserve jobs and avoid the creation of monopolies in water and waste, that the future majority shareholder should be French, and that the government, which owns 23.6% of Engie, should find the future deal “satisfactory”.