February 6, 2019 / 4:18 PM / 5 months ago

French Senate gives go-ahead for lower state share in Engie

PARIS, Feb 6 (Reuters) - The French Senate on Wednesday voted in favour of allowing the state to lower its minority stake in gas and power group Engie, despite rejecting a proposal to privatise airport operator ADP earlier in the week.

The French state owns 23.64 percent of Engie’s capital and 34 percent of the shares’ voting rights, and is required by law to keep at least 33 percent of the voting rights.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told the Senate that if Engie wanted to issue new capital to finance its expansion, the state would have no choice but to subscribe to respect the law.

“That is why we ask for the possibility to lower the state’s stake in Engie below the legal limit,” Le Maire told senators.

The government has given no indication of how much of its shares it may want to sell.

The Senate, controlled by the conservative opposition, voted 250 against 92 in favour of the government proposal.

A no-vote could only have delayed the operation, rather than definitively block it, since the Assemblee Nationale lower house of parliament - where President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist LREM party has a comfortable majority - has the final vote.

“The logic is the same for all government asset sales, we want to give (these companies) the chance to grow and develop,” Le Maire said, adding that Engie would boost its investment in renewable energy, notably biogas and offshore wind power.

The planned sale of more Engie shares is part of a government plan to raise around 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) for innovation as part of its “Loi Pacte” legislation. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

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