France-based Veolia said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday it is open to review the price it has offered to purchase Engie’s 29.9% stake in Suez.
At the end of August, Veolia’s CEO Antoine Frérot made a firm offer to Engie for the acquisition of most of the multinational electric utility’s shares in Suez for 2.9 billion euros - €15.50 per share. If the proposal is successful, Veolia intends to file a voluntary tender offer for the remaining Suez shares.
Last week Engie rejected Veolia’s offer saying it “cannot be accepted under its proposed terms.” However, the Engie’s board said it would consider a higher offer for the Suez stake.
Bertrand Camus, CEO of Suez, has described Veolia’s surprise proposal as “particularly hostile” and has announced the company is working on a counter proposal. On Monday, Suez said it planned to hand back more than 1 billon euros ($1.17 billion) to shareholders in dividends and share buybacks by the middle of 2021.
During the interview, Estelle Brachlianoff, Chief Operating Officer at Veolia, disclosed: “There is a legitimate debate on the price, clearly, and there will be a discussion to be had.”
Still, the deal’s closure, Veolia believes, will not only be determined by the final price of the offer. Brachlianoff said that Engie was also evaluating the viability of the future entity, and job assurance.
“Time is pressing if we want to avoid the dismantling of Suez,” said Brachlianoff.
For Veolia, time is of essence because it wants to make the deal before Suez divests more of its units.