Gérard Mestrallet: The risk of takeover bids in the energy industry is fairly limited

DUEL AU SOMMET DU CAPITALISME

Q. What is the problem in the CO2 market?

A. It’s simple. The carbon price is too low and so it does not send a clear enough signal. It even fell to 4 euros from 30 at the beginning of the crisis. Now it has increased slowly, and with difficulty, to 6-7 euros. But we need to return to the 25-30 euros spread. Once that happened, investors, market players, energy operators – or other energy-consuming industries – would get a strong enough message to encourage them to invest in decarbonised energy sectors.

Nowadays, you do not pay a price for emitting CO2. It is too cheap. There is no difference between burning coal or producing wind and solar energy. The price of coal should be the main weapon in the fight against global warming.

Q. It seems the French government is approving rules to protect multinationals from potential takeover bids. Do you think this behaviour is typical of the times we live in?

A. I don’t know what you are referring to.

Q. The most controversial proposal would double the voting rights of shareholders who have owned shares for more than two years in a listed company. This is creating tensions between the government, French entrepreneurs and foreign investors in companies like Vivendi, GDF Suez and Renault.

A. It is a provision which already existed in French law. It only needed to be adopted in an Extraordinary Assembly. Under the terms of the new regulation, things have been reversed and the General Assembly may decide there is no such right to this double vote. But the shareholders will decide. Perhaps it is this regulatory measure that you are referring to when you speak about rules to protect multinationals against potential takeover bids.

Q. Several investment funds believe that this is a defensive measure to block any hostile takeover bid and give more power to French companies’ core shareholder groups.

R. But in any event, it is the shareholders who will decide whether or not to grant a double voting right to shareholders who have owned their shares for two years. It was already possible before. The conditions are a bit different now, that’s all.

Q. The French Minister of Ecology, Ségolène Royal, said she was in favour of the merger between electricity company EDF and nuclear group Areva and “the sooner the better.” Don’t you think that the government really wants to use this opportunity to reorganize and protect the sector?

A. The energy sector is hardly affected (by the double vote)… In our own case, the state holds about 33% of capital as a result of the merger between Gaz de France, where the state was the majority shareholder, and Suez, which was totally private.

As far as other energy companies are concerned, the state controls 60-80% of EDF’s capital and fully owns Areva. The risk of takeover bids in this sector is fairly limited.

 

Continue reading: “GDF Suez shareholders will decide whether or not to grant a double voting right to those who have owned their shares for two years” 

 

About the Author

Jacobo de Regoyos
Jacobo de Regoyos has been reporting from Brussels for the last 16 years. After writing for Spanish newspaper El Mundo and Tele 5, he is currently the correspondent for Onda Cero Radio. He holds a degree in Journalism by San Pablo CEU University and in 2001 he won the prestigious Salvador de Madariaga award, granted to the best reporting in Europe. He is also author of 'Belgistán, el laboratorio nacionalista' (Belgistan, the nationalism lab), about the evolution of nationalism in the EU.

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