Deal reached giving Italian group control of French shipyard

AP News
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Posted: Sep 27, 2017 2:17 PM
Deal reached giving Italian group control of French shipyard

LYON, France (AP) — The leaders of France and Italy announced a deal Wednesday that allows Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to take control of France's STX shipyard, ending a weekslong dispute between the two countries.

French president Emmanuel Macron, speaking alongside Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni in the French city of Lyon, called the agreement creating a European naval industry behemoth a "win-win deal."

France had blocked the takeover this summer, citing job and strategic concerns, angering the Italian government.

Putting the dispute behind him, Gentiloni stressed Italy's longtime friendship and partnership with France — and how that will help Europe as a whole down the line.

"Italy and France have a great need for a Europe that is a motor of investment, work, and growth," he said.

Macron's office said the deal effectively gives Fincantieri a 51 percent stake in the key shipyard, which is located on the Atlantic coast in Saint-Nazaire.

State-controlled Fincantieri shipbuilder will pay 60 million euros ($70.5 million) to own 50 percent of STX. The president's office said France will lend Fincantieri another 1 percent stake to give the Italian group operational control.

The lending mechanism allows France to take back the 1 percent stake if the French government determines Fincantieri is not complying with its commitments.

The remaining 49 percent stake will remain in French hands, held mostly the government and the state-owned Naval Group.

Under the new shareholder structure, 34 percent will be owned by the French state, including the 1 percent stake loaned to Fincantieri.

Fincantieri has committed to maintaining the shipyard's research and development division in France; to not transferring know-how or intellectual property outside Europe; to granting France a right of veto over the future name of the STX company; and to giving the French special rights related to the military activity of STX.

STX is the only shipyard in France where it is possible to build a possible second aircraft carrier and large warships. Last year, it turned out the world's largest cruise ship, the Harmony of the Seas, and earlier created the Queen Mary II.

France will pay particular attention to Fincantieri's compliance with the rules of governance, the level of investment, the preservation of jobs on French soil, the activity of the local French subcontractors and the fair treatment between France and Italy, depending on the development of the future group, the French presidency said.

Fincantieri shares were up 1.8 percent in late morning trading on expectations of the deal.

In July, the French government temporarily nationalized the STX shipyard to prevent Fincantieri from taking it over and to give itself time to negotiate more guarantees.

At the time, the French government had argued it needed to defend its strategic and military interests, guarantee thousands of jobs, and ensure that French know-how is not transferred outside Europe.

The French-Italian deal was announced one day after the high-profile merger between Germany's Siemens and France's Alstom to create a European train-making giant.

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Corbet reported from Paris. Philippe Sotto in Paris and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to the story.