PARIS Francois Fillon, the conservative politician seen by opinion polls as most likely to win the French presidential election this year, says France should sell state stakes in firms deemed as not having a strategic importance for the country.
"The state should only be a shareholder in strategic companies," Fillon said in an interview with French magazine Capital. He declined in the published interview to name any individual companies to which this might apply.
He also told Capital that France "must not show any signs of weakness" in terms of ensuring French technology companies could challenge bigger international rivals such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.
Fillon's interview echoed similar comments last month, when he said he was favourable towards privatisations of state shareholdings in order to raise cash for investments in major infrastructure projects.
Fillon, a former Prime Minister, said in December France should sell out of "unnecessary investments" in private-sector companies, citing carmaker Renault as an example.
The French government holds just under 20 percent of Renault and has significant stakes in several other large companies including Air France, Airbus, Peugeot, Orange and Engie.
(Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by James Dalgleish)