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French Senate urges government to buy 'golden share' in TotalEnergies

FILE PHOTO: Logo of French oil and gas company TotalEnergies in La Defense

By America Hernandez

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government should buy a "golden share" in TotalEnergies to have a say in strategic company decisions, including aligning its activities with the Paris Climate Accord and vetoing any potential move to the U.S., a non-binding Senate report published on Wednesday said.

The report follows nearly six months of hearings by a special commission on whether TotalEnergies' global activities are aligned with France's own climate objectives.

With snap elections in France in two weeks, it is unclear what an incoming legislature will do with the report's 33 recommendations.

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"We want Total to remain a French group and a pioneer in the energy transition — it may not please investors but yes, we are aiming for a return of sovereignty," said Green Party Senator Yannick Jadot, who presented the commission's findings at a news conference.

TotalEnergies did not respond to a request for comment.

Under French law, the government can purchase a single share in domestic companies deemed strategic and convert it into a so-called "golden share," allowing it to block certain actions, such as a takeover or sale of a key business unit, if deemed detrimental to the national interest.

In May, TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné said he was exploring a potential primary listing in New York, citing a growing U.S. investor base and fewer European shareholders. But he also said the company would never leave France.

Jadot said that the commission rejected the concept of a 5% capital purchase in TotalEnergies by the government at a cost of some 7 billion euros ($7.52 billion) because France could not afford it, and to avoid concern among existing investors that the state could seek to raise its stake in the future.

The Senate report also recommended that France voluntarily stop importing Russian liquefied natural gas — TotalEnergies holds a 19.4% stake in Russian producer Novatek — and push for European Union sanctions on Russian LNG.

Jadot said the government should oppose projects currently under consideration by the European Commission to import natural gas from Azerbaijan, where TotalEnergies also operates, as an alternative to Russian supply, given France's position as an ally to Armenia.

($1 = 0.9305 euros)

(Reporting by America Hernandez. Editing by Jane Merriman)