EDF workers protests against part-privatisation

25th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 25 (AFP) - Unions and workers at France's EDF electricity utility were preparing on Tuesday a campaign of protests against government plans to sell off part of the huge company in one of Europe's biggest stock market flotations.

PARIS, Oct 25 (AFP) - Unions and workers at France's EDF electricity utility were preparing on Tuesday a campaign of protests against government plans to sell off part of the huge company in one of Europe's biggest stock market flotations.

Rallies were organised to take place Tuesday in front of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's office and in front of government buildings across the country.

A petition was to be given to Villepin with 100,000 signatures opposing his announcement Monday that up to 15 percent of the state-owned Electricity de France (EDF) would be sold off next month to raise around seven billion euros (8.4 billion dollars).

The powerful CGT and FO unions also declared their EDF members would begin hardline action from November 8 which would include strikes and targeted electricity cuts.

A big Paris demonstration is additionally scheduled for November 19.

The unions were behind hundreds of blackouts that hit France last year in protest at the privatisation of EDF's smaller sister company, Gaz de France.

They accuse the conservative government of forcing through privatisation over the concerns of workers, who fear job losses and a decline in the public service role of the big enterprises.

"Job-cuts will likely happen. The reassurances of the government and the management on this subject are only there to help us swallow the medicine," one EDF technician, Hubert Hamon, told Le Parisien newspaper.

Villepin sought to attenuate some of the fears by having his government sign a contract with EDF which he said would ensure moderate and universal electricity rates would stay, and poorer families would not find themselves suddenly cut off if unable to pay their energy bills.

The company chief executive, Pierre Gadonneix, also said EDF would invest 40 billion euros (48 billion dollars) over five years to boost electricity production, mainly in France, and to pay for more acquisitions abroad.

The launch of the EDF share offer is to take place Friday, with trading to begin by November 21, Economy Minister Thierry Breton said. The operation would value EDF at around 50 billion euros, with the shares expected to be set at 24.40 euros each at least. Workers at the utility have been allocated 15 percent of the issue, while institutional investors will get 50 percent and private investors 35 percent.

EDF is Europe's biggest utility and the largest supplier of civilian nuclear energy in the world.

It generates nearly three-quarters of its output from nuclear power plants, of which 19 dot France, and supplies 22 percent of the European Union's energy needs.

The state-owned company has aggressively expanded internationally in recent years, racking up nearly 20 billion euros in debt.

But its partial privatisation has been on the cards since 2000, when EU energy market liberalisation rules came into effect. By next year, households in France will for the first time be able to choose their electricity supplier with the introduction of consumer-level competition. Companies have already been able to do so for a year.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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