Belgium wins concession on GDF Suez strategy issues

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Belgium will be consulted on strategic issues involving the merged French energy giant, said prime ministers of both countries.

7 April 2008
BRUSSELS - Belgium will be consulted on strategic issues involving a merged French energy giant ahead of a "golden share" deal, the prime ministers of both countries said Friday.

After their Brussels summit, prime ministers Yves Leterme and Francois Fillon said an interim mechanism would give Belgium a voice at the head of the GDF Suez business, with an adviser to Leterme saying the special veto sought requires the go-ahead from European competition authorities.

Brussels has been seeking a golden share for months, fearing that a French company will, in effect, also control Belgium's leading energy business, Electrabel, once the merger is sealed, which is slated for the summer.

Belgian concerns stem from the fact that the French state will hold a 35.6 percent stake in the new company, thereby influencing Belgian energy market issues.

Fillon told reporters it was a question of putting in place structures which avoided differences between the two countries over their strategic interests.

"But we think that the market should dictate and businesses should be free to operate across both countries," Fillon added, saying Belgium had nothing to fear from French industry.

Leterme said it was a question of creating the "possibility of intervention" and a space for Belgian arguments to be heard before important decisions are taken by the group's management.

[AFP / Expatica]

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