PARIS, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Veolia’s offer to acquire a stake in Suez as a step towards a takeover of its fellow French waste and water management group was based on an “industrial mirage” that would weaken Suez in France and overseas, its chairman said in an interview with French Sunday newspaper JDD.
Veolia offered on Aug. 30 to buy a 29.9% stake in Suez from French gas and power utility Engie for 2.9 billion euros ($3.4 billion), and if accepted would launch a full takeover bid to create a “world champion of ecological transformation”.
Suez’s board and management have rejected the offer in the past week and said the company was considering alternatives.
In the interview with French newspaper JDD, Suez Chairman Philippe Varin called Veolia’s offer “very hostile” and said the plan to create a sole French sector leader would bring job losses in France and hurt efforts to win overseas tenders.
“If you scratch the surface a bit, under the veneer of a French global super-champion that is being held up to us, I see an industrial mirage,” Varin said.
He said Veolia’s proposal to sell on Suez’s French water business to infrastructure fund Meridiam raised “serious questions”, since Meridiam was financed but did not operate projects.
Suez management was working on an alternative solution, Varin confirmed. He declined to give details but noted that the French government had been clear about the need for a French dimension to any plan.
Suez would seek to convince the French government, which has a large stakeholding in Engie, of the flaws in Veolia’s offer, Varin added.
$1 = 0.8442 euros Reporting by Gus Trompiz Editing by Leslie Adler
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