PARIS A leading French minister expressed support on Wednesday for a bid by Italy's Fincantieri's (FCT.MI) for shipbuilder STX France, adding that the government would aim to keep the shipbuilder's main site running at Saint Nazaire.
"We said we wanted a European, industrial company ... Fincantieri is a European, industrial company. So it would be hard for us to say 'no' to them," French Industry Minister Christophe Sirugue told RMC Radio.
The sale of STX France, which specializes in building cruise ships at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard and is profitable, forms part of a broader sell-off of businesses following the demise of the South Korean STX shipbuilding group.
The French state owns 33 percent of STX France, and Sirugue said the government was keen to keep the Saint Nazaire site in the west of the country.
Italy's 230-year old Fincantieri makes a wide range of vessels from cruise ships to military aircraft carriers, and acquiring STX France would boost its presence in the cruise shipbuilding part of the market.
Sirugue said France wanted state-controlled military shipbuilder DCNS, in which Thales (TCFP.PA) holds around 35 percent, to take a minority stake in STX France that would definitely be below 50 percent of the company.
Saint Nazaire's high point last year was production of the largest passenger ship ever built, the 'Harmony of the Seas'.
(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Richard Balmforth)