Italy rebuffs France's '50-50' proposal for STX shipyard
ROME- The Italian Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan will not compromise on a 50-50 shareholding split of the French STX shipyard, he revealed to press after a meeting with his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Rome.
The debate is over the Italian state-owned shipbuilding company Fincantieri shareholders’ percentage of France’s biggest shipyard, St-Nazaire, which was "temporarily" nationalised by the French government to prevent an Italian takeover in July. Fincantieri bought a two-third holding for 71 million of the shipyard after the collapse of its previous South Korean owner STX in 2016. The current French government has now withdrawn an agreement drawn up by former French President Francois Hollande guaranteeing Italy’s majority shareholding and now want to redistribute shares so that the company is half-owned by France and half-owned by Italy.
The Italian Minister Padoan said after the meeting that “it is not possible to accept” the 50-50 allotment of shares and that “we remain and will remain firm on this point.” Padoan added that there is still time to come to an agreement before September 27, when Italian President Paolo Gentilioni and French President Emmanuel Macron are set to meet.
The French Minister of Economy and Finance Le Maire reinforced the need for “cooperation between Italy and France”: “We are two great people, we are like brothers. We are faced with a problem and have different opinions over Stx but we will find an adequate solution.” Le Maire told Corriere della Sera that France proposes a 50 percent shareholding for both their government and Italy’s. The French Minister believes that with this “cooperation with Italy” could make the Saint-Nazaire shipward “a great industrial champion in Europe for shipping, civil and military purposes.” However, he added: “we will be forced to consider other options [as shareholder partners] if the negotiations don’t go well, but I hope that won’t be necessary.”
The shipyard is located at the mouth of the Loire River near Nantes. It is also the only shipyard big enough in France to build aircraft carriers and large warships. Its positioning on the Atlantic Coast is of strategic importance and France thus regrets another country having control over this key site. Moreover, French politicians and unions have expressed their concerns over the 7,000 jobs that St. Nazaire shipyard necessitates; if the shipbuilding industry declines, it is assumed Italy would protect their own workers over French ones if they maintain their majority shareholder position.