Veolia, the world leader in water and waste treatment, is offering to buy part of Suez from Engie. A marriage intended to create an environmental juggernaut, but which is not without raising some questions, in particular on the maintenance of jobs and the monopolistic situation that could ensue.

The time has come for major industrial maneuvers. Veolia, the world leader in water and waste treatment, is preparing to take control of Suez, its major competitor. In detail, this first concerns the buyout of the stake held by Engie in Suez environnement (29.9%), for which Veolia is offering nearly 3 billion euros. Then, secondly, the buyout of the whole group.

The buyer is an empire of 180,000 employees and 27 billion euros in turnover. Suez, for its part, represents 89,000 employees and 18 billion euros. The two enemy brothers, historical competitors, are present in the same businesses: water and waste treatment, as well as energy. And it is obvious that the context of crisis is pushing for the regrouping of forces. Veolia wants to create a juggernaut for "the world after", believing that it is necessary to be bigger to act on the ecological transition.

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The state supports the operation ...

This sector is becoming more and more strategic. The CEO of Veolia, Antoine Frérot, explains, for example, that if the technological solutions that already exist at Veolia were implemented across the world, this would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. He told Les Échos on Sunday evening that with this merger, the ambition was to create a "world super champion of ecological transition". This transition is a business, it represents points of growth and employment.

The French state, moreover, supports this operation. In high places, we believe that this is a satisfactory solution and that it fits perfectly with the will of the executive to create national champions. In Bercy, we worked on the operation all weekend. Because the State, Engie's largest shareholder, nevertheless sets its conditions.

... but remain vigilant

There is no question, for example, of creating a water monopoly in France. Véolia therefore undertakes to sell the French activities to an investment fund, Meridiam, which the government knows well and in which it trusts. We also need insurance in terms of employment, and the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, says he is very "vigilant" on this point. Another requirement: obtain a good price for Engie's participation. "It could be done if it is well paid", we still say sources close to the file. Everything could then go very quickly.

However, the redemption must nevertheless be accepted internally. The Suez teams will be headlong. On paper, the combination of the two companies makes it the undisputed world leader in water and waste management. Major sectors, while 30% of humanity does not have access to drinking water or the world is crumbling under plastic waste that must be recycled. Veolia and Suez are cut out for these huge markets. Their teams still have to agree to get married.