March 24, 2020 / 9:24 AM / 13 days ago

France has list of companies that could get state support - Le Maire

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government has drawn up a list of companies that may need state support due to the coronavirus outbreak such as a capital injection or even outright nationalisation, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO - French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks during a news conference after a cabinet meeting in Paris, France March 18, 2020, held to draft a law to confirm delay of second round of municipal elections as a strict lockdown came into in effect in France to stop the spread of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

Le Maire said he could not disclose the names of the companies on the list, but that they knew they could count on the support of the government.

“Nationalisation is obviously a last resort, but it is something that we do not exclude,” Le Maire told France Info radio.

“We are not going to let our industrial champions that we have invested billions in ... go up in smoke because of an economic crisis of a violence unseen since 1929,” he said.

Some French companies in which the state holds a stake have suffered steep drops in their share prices due to the outbreak, with carmaker Renault (RENA.PA) and airline Air France KLM (AIRF.PA) among those to see the most dramatic drops.

Le Maire urged big companies to show “moderation” about paying dividends to their shareholders and also to pay their suppliers strictly on time. Those who fail to do so will not be able to get a state guarantee for their loans, he said.

The government has offered to guarantee up to 300 billion euros (278.52 billion pounds) in business loans through commercial banks as part of its response to the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

It has also launched a package of crisis measures worth 45 billion euros - 2% of GDP - in the form of deferred tax payments and payroll charges as well as payments to companies that keep workers on their payroll even if they are not working.

Le Maire said that companies had requested such payments to cover 720,000 workers.

A survey published on Tuesday showed that French business activity plunged to its lowest level on record in March as a nationwide coronavirus lockdown shuttered vast swathes of the euro zone’s second-biggest economy.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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