Minister rejects deadline for decision on gas company

28th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 28, 2007 (AFP) - French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said Thursday that a looming end to EU energy monopolies did not mean the government had to quickly decide the future of state-owned Gaz de France (GDF).

PARIS, June 28, 2007 (AFP) -  French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said Thursday that a looming end to EU energy monopolies did not mean the government had to quickly decide the future of state-owned Gaz de France (GDF).

"We have a certain number of options currently under examination. We do not have a fixed, tight timetable," Lagarde told BFM radio.

On Wednesday, the conservative French daily Le Figaro said the goverment was close to announcing a merger of GDF with the private French utility Suez, saying: "The marriage could become official in the coming days."

Le Figaro's report came just days before European Union energy markets were to be opened to greater competition, although GDF's position in France appeared to be well defended.

On Thursday, Lagarde told BFM that the EU move on Sunday was "not at all" a deadline, and added: "All options are being examined and are examinable.

"The Suez-GDF solution is one, but 'stand alone' solutions are also being examined," she said in French and English.

"What will guide us is the best industrial solution for this sector of activity and for the emergence of a great champion in this field."

The long-discussed plan to merge GDF with Suez was designed to create a French national champion able to compete in a consolidating European energy market and protect both companies from foreign predators.

But the disputed deal hit a legal obstacle when the French Constitutional Council, which rules on the legality of government legislation, said in late November that a merger of GDF with another company could only happen after July 1, when EU consumers are to be allowed to choose their own energy suppliers.

The Suez-GDF plan was initially seen as a pre-emptive defence against a possible hostile bid by Italian energy group Enel.

Many analysts believe predators are following efforts to rescue the merger closely with a view to bidding for Suez if the deal with GDF falls through.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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