France concerned about Alcatel loan deal: paper

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 17, 2012 11:48 AM
France concerned about Alcatel loan deal: paper

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government is concerned about Alcatel-Lucent's plan to use patents as collateral for a 1.6 billion euro ($2.1 billion) loan because the intellectual property could fall into the hands of foreign banks, Les Echos newspaper reported.

On Friday, the loss-making telecom equipment maker said it had agreed an asset-backed loan from Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs to help it deal with upcoming debt maturities and fund its ongoing restructuring.

Les Echos said on Monday the government was worried that Alacatel-Lucent was being asked to put up such valuable assets as collateral, and as a result was looking for ways to reduce the amount the group needs to borrow or lessen the collateral.

Two main approaches are being weighed - helping Alcatel-Lucent sell assets, such as its submarine cable and enterprise businesses, or setting up a consortium to monetize the patents. The second approach would allow outside groups to invest while keeping Alcatel-Lucent as a co-owner of its patents.

An Alcatel-Lucent spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

The French government has remained relatively quiet in recent months as Alcatel-Lucent posted second and third quarter-losses and announced a program of cuts affecting 5,500 people.

"The government is following the situation at Alcatel-Lucent very closely, and is in regular dialogue with the management," said an advisor to Fleur Pellerin, the junior minister for the digital economy.

"Above all, we want the decisions that are made to be in the long-term interest of the company."

A Paris-based trader said the government's interest in Alcatel-Lucent's financing deal was unlikely to come too much.

"The French government is lobbying to reduce the perimeter of the collateral but it won't and can't block the Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse loans since it cannot afford to directly loan Alcatel the cash it needs in the next three years," said the trader.

"This loan will go through, Alcatel has run out of options."

Caisse de Depots et Consignations, the government fund that manages pensions and investments for the state, owns 3.6 percent of Alcatel-Lucent.

(Reporting by Leila Abboud, Gwenaelle Barzic, and Blaise Robinson; Editing by Dan Lalor and David Holmes)