(Bloomberg) -- Private equity firms Ardian SAS and Global Infrastructure Partners are prepared to offer 11.3 billion euros ($13.7 billion) for Suez SA in a proposal backed by the French water company, as it tries to fend off a takeover attempt by archrival Veolia Environnement SA.Suez said it was now prepared to talk to Veolia, and private equity company Ardian said it was up to those two companies to find a solution -- insisting its proposal is not a firm counterbid. But Veolia said it had no intention of selling the 29.9% stake it bought as a prelude to a full takeover, and only wants to talk about its project for Suez.It’s another twist in a protracted battle between the water and waste industry competitors, a saga that’s playing out in the boardroom, the courts and the French political arena.Suez’s board unanimously welcomed the latest approach -- which matches Veolia’s 18-euro-per-share proposal. Suez Chief Executive Officer Bertrand Camus said it would preserve jobs and competition in the French market and shareholders should back it because the situation with Veolia is effectively “blocked.”The French government, which has previously pushed for a friendly deal with Veolia and said any alternative solutions should maintain French control over Suez, hasn’t yet reacted to Ardian and GIP’s proposal.Veolia Stands FirmArdian said it’s now up to Suez and Veolia to find a solution.“There’s no counterbid on our part,” Mathias Burghardt, head of Ardian’s infrastructure business, said in an interview. “We’ll back a solution that both (Veolia and Suez) parties must find.”Suez’s Camus said the proposal “requires talks with Veolia, and Suez is calling for such talks.”Veolia responded that it has no intention of selling its 29.9% holding -- acquired in October -- and repeated that Chief Executive Officer Antoine Frerot is prepared to discuss his company’s project for Suez. Veolia earlier this month published the takeover bid it intends to submit as Frerot tries to build a global giant in the sector. Suez’s board and management have resisted the attempt, saying it can’t hold talks until there’s a formal offer.Veolia plans to offer 18 euros per Suez share with dividend rights, provided Suez’s management doesn’t detract from the value with decisions such as selling key assets in Spain, Chile, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, Frerot has said.For a takeover to succeed, various antitrust issues must be resolved. Veolia has agreed to divest Suez’s French water business to infrastructure manager Meridiam, and said it could sell some international water assets to that fund as well.Poison PillIn an attempt to make Veolia’s bid more difficult, Suez created a legal mechanism to make the sale of French water assets subject to approval of the current board. A French court has ordered Suez not to make this permanent without shareholder approval. Suez is now seeking to overturn that decision.Ardian’s potential involvement surfaced early on in the Suez-Veolia battle, only for the French PE firm to decide in October against filing an offer for Suez. Meanwhile, GIP has been on the acquisition trail of late.GIP beat out rivals including Blackstone Group Inc. this month to reach a $4.6 billion deal for Signature Aviation Plc, the world’s largest operator of private-jet bases.Its other deals include a $10.1 billion acquisition of natural-gas pipelines from Abu Dhabi as part of a consortium. In December, Royal Dutch Shell Plc agreed to sell a minority stake at a liquefied natural gas export project in Australia to GIP for $2.5 billion.(Updates with detail in second paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.