* Backs Proglio’s idea to beef up French nuclear sector
* Says Proglio will be busy with EDF, Veolia
* Says should focus on his own projects
PARIS, Nov 20 (Reuters) - French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said on Friday that while she understood new EDF (EDF.PA) chief Henri Proglio’s idea of strengthening France’s position in the nuclear sector, he should focus on his own challenges at EDF and Veolia (VIE.PA).
Lagarde’s comments to RTL radio followed Proglio’s interview with Les Echos on Wednesday in which he said state-owned power group EDF shoud take a stake in Areva’s CEPFi.PA reactor business to regain French nuclear leadership.
“I understand and I approve of his determination to strengthen France’s position in the nuclear sector,” Lagarde said. “But there is a company called Areva with a very significant expansion plan whose financing is under way and I think that everyone should concentrate on their own dossiers.”
Proglio would have “a lot on his plate” at EDF, while also retaining a role as non-executive chairman of French water and waste company Veolia (VIE.PA).
Proglio is due to take the reins of the nuclear power producer EDF next week.
As CEO of Veolia, Proglio had a history of expanding the business through acquisitions that left the company heavily indebted and its stock weakened.
It remained unclear whether Proglio, seen by experts to be close to President Nicolas Sarkozy, spoke for the French government, which owns 91 percent of Areva and 85 percent of EDF, analysts have said. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Dan Lalor)