French Finance Chief Says $12 Billion Asset Sale Will Take Years

  • Le Maire says the assets are currently being identified
  • The government will use the proceeds to finance innovation

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire sat down with Bloomberg's Caroline Connan in Paris, in his First international television interview since the election of President Emmanuel Macron in France three months ago. (Source: Bloomberg)

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the French government’s 10 billion-euro ($12 billion) divestment program will take years to execute and he’s working on identifying which assets will be sold.

“It won’t be in one go -- we won’t do the whole thing over 15 days,” Le Maire said in an interview in his Paris office. “That wouldn’t reasonable.” He said the first deals are likely to be done in September.

Le Maire said last month he plans to sell off government holdings to help finance innovation, as part of a push to upgrade French industry. He cited areas such as battery technology, artificial intelligence and transportation where public investment can help accelerate progress.

The decision over which assets to sell will be influenced by market conditions as well as the companies’ situation, Le Maire said, declining to name the firms he’s looking at.

“It is not the state’s role to get dividends from a certain number of companies in which the state has no strategic interest,” he said. “We want these transactions to benefit the general interest and the state.”

According to the government agency managing the state’s holdings, the French government owns about 100 billion euros worth of stakes in 81 companies, of which 13 are listed on the French stock market. Its investments include Aeroports de Paris, telecom group Orange SA, carmakers Renault SA and PSA Group, Air France-KLM, as well as utilities Engie SA and Electricite de France SA.

— With assistance by Caroline Connan

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