PARIS, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Veolia's offer to
acquire a stake in fellow French waste and water management
group Suez was based on an "industrial mirage" that
would weaken Suez in France and overseas, according to Suez'
chairman in an interview with French newspaper JDD.
Veolia offered on Aug. 30 to buy a 29.9% stake in Suez from
French gas and power utility Engie for 2.9 billion
euros ($3.4 billion), and, if successful, to then launch a full
takeover bid to create a "world champion of ecological
Suez's board and management have since rejected the offer
and said the company was considering alternatives.
In the interview with JDD, Suez Chairman Philippe Varin
called Veolia's offer "very hostile" and said the plan to create
a sole French sector leader would bring job losses in France and
hurt efforts to win overseas tenders.
"If you scratch the surface a bit, under the veneer of a
French global super-champion that is being held up to us, I see
an industrial mirage," Varin said.
He said Veolia's proposal to sell on Suez's French water
business to infrastructure fund Meridiam raised "serious
questions," since Meridiam financed but did not operate
Suez management was working on an alternative solution,
Varin confirmed. He declined to give details but noted that the
French government, which has a large stake in Engie, had been
clear about the need for a French dimension to any plan.
French private equity firm Ardian told Reuters last week it
was talking to both Suez and Veolia, while French Finance
Minister Bruno Le Maire said he would meet soon with Suez.
Suez discussed the future of Engie's stake in July with
Engie Chairman Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, agreeing on the need for a
consensus and to rediscuss the matter in early September, Varin
Clamadieu has called Veoila's offer too low but also said
Suez should hurry up if it wants to present an alternative plan.
($1 = 0.8442 euros)
(Reporting by Gus Trompiz
Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)