Gaz de France partial privatisation starts June

9th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 8 (AFP) - An initial public offering of shares in France's state-owned Gaz de France (GDF) will begin on June 23, market conditions permitting, with the state retaining 78 to 80 percent of the capital, the French economics ministry said Wednesday.

PARIS, June 8 (AFP) - An initial public offering of shares in France's state-owned Gaz de France (GDF) will begin on June 23, market conditions permitting, with the state retaining 78 to 80 percent of the capital, the French economics ministry said Wednesday.  

The announcement follows the first major speech by new Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin earlier in the day in which he said the public offering of shares in GDF would be held "as soon as possible".  

"If market conditions permit, the opening of capital will be able to begin on June 23 for a first quotation of the company at the beginning of July, on condition of being granted authorisation by market authorities," the ministry said in a written statement.  

It added that the state would remain the majority shareholder in the gas utility following the public offering, keeping 78-80 percent of the capital.  

This was "far from the legal minimum of 70 percent," it said.  

Given the company's valuation of EUR 20 billion, the share sell-off could be worth some EUR 4 billion (USD 5 billion).   

Some 40 percent of the funds raised is to stay with the company, the ministry said, so the French state could raise some EUR 2 billion after taking into account that some shares will be sold to employees at a discount.  

GDF employees will be entitled to subscribe to 15 percent of the shares on offer.  

The ministry said staff were likely to end up with a 3.0 percent stake in the company altogether.  

Staff "will have the possibility to buy shares in preferential conditions, of a proportion that the minister has decided to set at 15 percent of shares offered," the statement said.  

Gaz de France announced in February that net profit rose 14.9 percent in 2004 reaching EUR 1.046 billion (USD 1.382 billion), on an 8.9 percent increase in sales to EUR 18.129 billion.  

Trade unions strongly oppose the partial privatisation of energy utilities, and the ministry's announcement on GDF was quickly followed by three unions reiterating their opposition.  

The announcement of the privatisation of GDF follows the sale earlier this week of a little over six percent in France Telecom, which dealers said was less than a success.  

Facing weak economic growth and public finances out of line with EU rules, the government earmarked the EUR 3.4 billion it expects from the sale of the shares for debt reduction.  

Villepin also said the government would restart privatisation of the companies which manage France's toll highways, which has been frozen since 2003.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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