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Sarkozy says Suez shareholders will decide on GdF merger

Sarkozy says Suez shareholders will decide on GdF merger

JOUY-EN-JOSAS, France _ French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday that shareholders of Franco-Belgian utility Suez SA will determine whether the much-delayed merger with state-owned Gaz de France goes ahead.
In a speech to French business leaders near Paris, Sarkozy said he had "proposed to Suez to merge its energy activities with Gaz de France" in order to "create a large European electricity and gas group in which the state would be the main shareholder."
"This would mean Suez makes a strategic choice to specialize in energy," he said. "It's now up to the shareholders to decide."
The Suez-GdF tie-up was first proposed in February 2006 by former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in an attempt to fend off a hostile bid for Suez by the Italian utility Enel SpA.
Under the conditions of the original deal, the government would have had to privatize GdF _ something Sarkozy promised not to do when he was finance minister in 2004.
Under Sarkozy's new proposal Suez would have to sell off its environment activities.
Before Sarkozy's speech, Suez Chairman Gerard Mestrallet said all parties need to ensure they "share the same long-term vision."
Suez is prepared for the success or failure of the merger talks, he said, striking an ambiguous note on the chances of success.
"We don't know whether it's going to get done; it depends on the conditions," he told analysts on a conference call Thursday presenting the company's first half results.
Suez said first-half profit fell 15 percent to euro1.85 billion (US$2.52 billion) in the first half from euro2.17 billion (US$2.96 billion) a year earlier.
Gaz de France Chairman Jean-Francois Cirelli urged Suez on Wednesday to take the steps needed for the merger to take place.


Updated : 2021-03-08 15:33 GMT+08:00