Veolia Environnement to Cut 1,500 Jobs at French Water Division

Veolia Environnement SA, Europe’s biggest water company, plans to cut about 10 percent of the workforce at its water division in France to reduce costs.

The 1,500 job cuts will be on a voluntary basis and negotiated with unions, said a company official who declined to be named because the process hasn’t been finalized. The plan was discussed with unions yesterday.

Veolia plans to unveil new cost-saving targets in May and has started cutting jobs in France through voluntary departures and not replacing employees who leave, Chief Operating Officer Francois Bertreau said last month. He was charged with cutting costs and reorganizing operations in November when he was appointed.

Veolia Chief Executive Officer Antoine Frerot, more than a year into a two-year plan to curtail debt and scale back Veolia’s geographic reach, has changed top managers and shuffled the board to weather an industry slowdown.

Veolia reported net income of 394 million euros ($510 million) in 2012, compared with a loss of 490 million euros a year earlier. Net financial debt totaled 11.3 billion euros at the end of December, down from 14.7 billion euros a year earlier. Veolia sees net borrowing at no more than 9 billion euros by year-end.

Veolia will sell small and mid-sized assets in 2013, Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Francois Riolacci has said. It sold 3.7 billion euros of assets in 2012 and expects that figure to expand to 6 billion euros with this year’s divestments.