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France to announce details of EDF nationalisation

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: The EDF logo at the company's headquarters in Paris

By Silvia Aloisi and Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government will announce on Tuesday details of its plans to fully nationalise EDF, giving it greater control of Europe's biggest nuclear power operator as the company grapples with an energy crisis.

The finance ministry said last week it would clarify its plans to take full control of EDF, in which it already holds an 84% stake, by Tuesday morning at the latest.

Analysts expect the government to announce a price and timeline for a public offer to buy out minority shareholders. EDF shares, which were suspended last week pending the government statement, will resume trading on Tuesday.

Bringing EDF back under full state ownership would give the government greater licence to restructure the debt-laden group that runs the nation's nuclear power plants.

EDF has been grappling with unplanned outages at its nuclear fleet, delays and cost overruns in building new reactors, and power tariff caps imposed by the government to shield French consumers from soaring electricity prices.

The war in Ukraine has deepened the group's crisis. As Europe scrambles to find alternative gas supplies to Russia, France has said the nationalisation of EDF will increase the security of its energy reserves. Earlier this month, Germany moved to bail out Uniper, its ailing importer of Russian gas.

France, which would normally be exporting electricity at this time of the year, is currently importing from Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Britain, and the supply crunch is likely to worsen this winter.

Two sources told Reuters last week the Paris government was poised to pay up to 10 billion euros ($10.2 billion) to buy the 16% stake in the group it does not already own, after including the purchase of convertible bonds and a premium it is expected to offer to minority shareholders.

That would translate into a buyout price of close to 13 euros per share, a 30% premium to current market prices but still a big loss for long-term shareholders, as the group was listed in 2005 at 33 euros per share.

The sources said the state wanted to move quickly and would likely launch a voluntary offer on the market rather than push a nationalisation bill through parliament, with the aim of closing the deal in October-November.

"Nationalisation is ultimately the only way to save the company and ensure electricity production," said Ingo Speich, head of sustainability and corporate governance at Deka Investment, which has a small EDF stake.

"This is a bitter but necessary step."

EDF shares closed at 10.2250 euros on July 11, the last day of trading before they were suspended.

($1 = 0.9829 euros)

(Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas in Paris, Carolyn Cohn in London; Editing by Mark Potter)

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