Blackstone’s Assant Says Buyout Funds Negative on France

Blackstone Group LP’s head of European private equity, Lionel Assant, said his industry is “absolutely negative” about investing in France because the country is delaying economic reforms.

“It is very difficult to be excited on France these days,” Assant said at the SuperReturn International conference in Berlin today. “Structural reforms have not started. The country is effectively denying the inevitable.”

Assant also said France is viewed as the least promising economy in the euro region, while perceptions of nations harder-hit by the European debt crisis have improved. French President Francois Hollande is struggling to boost employment in an economy teetering on the brink of recession as more than 3 million people look for work, the highest level of joblessness in 15 years.

“I was sitting at a round table with private-equity executives a couple of weeks ago,” Assant said. “People were incredibly optimistic about Ireland, starting to be optimistic about Spain. There was just one country were there was consensus: it is France. They were absolutely negative about France.”

Assant has worked for New York-based Blackstone, the world’s largest buyout-fund manager, since 2003 and became head of European private equity last year.

France’s government and industrial competitiveness were criticized this month by Titan International Inc. Chairman Maurice Taylor, who exchanged letters with Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg after the U.S.-based company declined to reconsider buying a tire plant.

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