April 14, 2013 / 7:20 PM / 6 years ago

French minister mulls partial stake sales in companies

France's Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg delivers a speech as he visits the Innorobo 2013 fair (Innovation Robotics Summit) as companies and research centres present their latest technologies in robotics in Lyon, March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Pratta

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s industry minister on Sunday said the French government was mulling possible cuts in the state’s stakes in some partly state-owned companies in the energy and transport sectors while seeking to keep influence in their management.

“It doesn’t mean privatisations. But there are some companies in which we have a 36-percent stake. Could we bring that to 33 percent? What does it change? We can discuss it,” Arnaud Montebourg said in an interview on France 5 television.

France had a 36.7-percent stake in gas utility GDF-Suez GSZ.PA at end-December 2012, according to the group’s annual report.

“In some instances we have 85 percent in a company, if we bring that to 75 percent or 90 percent, it doesn’t change anything,” Montebourg said, adding that he could not give any names because these were listed companies.

The French government’s stake in utility EDF (EDF.PA) stood at 84.4 percent at end-2012.

“I don’t want to create unnecessary reactions on stock markets, but what I know is that we’re thinking of making changes, changes that would protect our strategic interests, which would not reduce the state’s influence,” he added.

Montebourg said companies in the energy and transport sectors could be concerned, as long as the state retained some influence on their management boards.

“In the example of Renault, we need our stake because I think that without it we would not have been able to repatriate the production of 200,000 vehicles by 2016 in France,” he said.

Renault (RENA.PA) Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn has promised to increase Renault’s French production by 100,000 vehicles for its own brand and 80,000 for Nissan and Daimler (DAIGn.DE) by 2016, in return for wage restraint and other union concessions.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio

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