Italy gives power back to EDF in Edison stake

6th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

ROME, May 6 (AFP) - The Italian government adopted a decree ending a freeze on the voting rights of French electricity group EDF in the Italian energy firm Edison on Friday, boosting the chances that EDF will maintain its presence on the Italian energy market.

ROME, May 6 (AFP) - The Italian government adopted a decree ending a freeze on the voting rights of French electricity group EDF in the Italian energy firm Edison on Friday, boosting the chances that EDF will maintain its presence on the Italian energy market.  

"The decree has been approved," a ministry of industry spokesman said.  

EDF owns an 18 percent stake in Italenergia Bis, the holding company that controls 62 percent of Edison, and has a direct 2.34 percent interest in Edison.  

But Italian authorities since 2001 had blocked EDF's voting rights at just two percent, claiming the French energy sector was not sufficiently open to competition.  

EDF was to hold a special board meeting in Paris on Friday to assess its future as an energy player in Italy.  

Ministerial sources said the Italian decree contained three conditions.  

The decision, which modifies existing legislation, will remove limitations on voting rights in the Edison group provided that the purchaser is an EU company, is ready to be floated on a stock exchange and that the government of the company's origin is prepared to open its own energy sector and to allow cross shareholdings among energy companies.  

EDF is in the process of being listed and has reached a preliminary agreement to let the Italian utilities group Enel enter the French market. The deal is currently being examined by European Union authorities.  

Italian Industry Minister Claudio Scajola said he now expected Enel to sign an energy deal soon with EDF.  

The Italian cabinet decision "allows us to close, we hope in the coming days, an important agreement with an important partner like EDF," which will lead to "significant Italian investments in France."  

EDF is now expected to take control of Italenergia Bis, possibily in conjunction with a partner, in a move that would give it a stake of more than 30 percent in Edison and would require it to place a bid for the remaining holdings.  

The daily newspaper Finanza Mercati said EDF was expected to ask a consortium of Italian investors led by the Milan gas and electricity group AEM to join it in acquiring Italenergia Bis.  

Press reports, speculating on the reasons for the cabinet decision, said the government preferred an alliance EDF and feared that a withdrawal by the French group could open the way to participation by another energy giant, such as Endesa of Spain.  

The move also enables Enel to enter the French market.  

In addition Italy had been facing an EU sanctions threat for its 2001 ruling that froze the voting rights percentage of public electricity and gas groups in Italy whose home markets had not been opened to competition.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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