A few days before the deadline, the sale of Chantiers de l’Atlantique to the Italian Fincantieri is still docked

A few days before the deadline, the sale of Chantiers de l’Atlantique to the Italian Fincantieri is still docked

The Italian group Fincantieri has until December 31 to transmit information requested by the European Commission, but the file seems to be at a standstill. After this period, the transfer agreement could be null and void.

A worker from Chantiers de l'Atlantique in front of the "Wonders of the sea", October 8, 2020 in Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique).  (JEREMIE LUSSEAU / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

The project to sell Chantiers de l’Atlantique to the Italian group Ficantieri, bogged down for many months, is still blocked as December 31 approaches, the deadline for concluding the operation under the transfer agreement. The Italian public group has still not submitted to the European Commission the information it requests from it in the context of its in-depth investigation into the impact of the sale on competition in the shipbuilding sector.

Without a response by Thursday or the granting of a new deadline, the transfer agreement, already postponed four times, will fall. Contacted by AFP, the European Commission indicates that “The watch is blocked” car “Missing information is not provided by the parties”. On the Fincantieri side, “We feel that we have done all that we should and could do”a spokesperson for the group said, while the French Ministry of the Economy did not comment.

The Saint-Nazaire company, specializing in liners and large military vessels, is owned by the French State (84.3% of the capital), Naval Group (11.7%), employees (2.4 %) and local companies (1.6%). Since 2017, a sale plan provides for Ficantieri to hold 50% of the capital, plus an additional 1% loaned by the French State – which thus reserves the right to take it over if the Italian group does not respect its commitments.

Would the Fincantieri group hesitate?

The file is strategic, because the Chantiers de l’Atlantique employs 3,100 people and 5,000 French and foreign subcontractors. Especially since the construction of large cruise ships is still a European preserve in the face of competition from Asia. Three shipyards share the market: Chantiers de l’Atlantique, Fincantieri and the German Meyer Werft. However, an alliance forged between the Italian company and the Chinese CSCC to build liners raises the fear of letting the wolf enter the fold.

After the signing of the agreement, however hard negotiated, it was France and Germany who had seized the European Commission. The gesture had made cringe the head of the Italian government Giuseppe Conte, who had criticized a behavior “ambiguous” and “Hardly understandable” from Paris. In an information report published at the end of October, the Senate Economic Affairs Committee estimated that “The silence of Fincantieri seemed to testify to the reluctance of the Italian group to continue” the buyout plan, to which they are unfavorable.