Paris (AFP)

In an attempt to convince Engie to cede its shares in Suez to it by Monday evening, Veolia undertook on Sunday not to launch a hostile takeover bid on its rival, who however immediately rejected this peaceful declaration by assuring that, for him , the operation remained "hostile".

The water and waste giant pledged on Sunday "unconditionally" not to file a hostile takeover bid on Suez, thus fulfilling the main condition set by the large shareholder Engie to sell its shares.

"Any takeover bid on the balance of Suez's capital will therefore require a prior favorable reception from the board of directors of Suez", affirms Veolia in a press release, boasting of making "possible the sale of the 29.9% of the capital that Engie holds in Suez ".

Veolia has also said it is ready to broaden the scope of asset disposals planned after a merger, adding international water activities to Suez Eau France and thus saying that it is responding to a request made by Suez.

Without waiting, the latter denounced a "misleading" press release.

"Suez has spared no effort in finding a solution acceptable to all, built on the project of retaining in France a second world-class player (...) in the water and service sectors to the environment, "writes Philippe Varin, chairman of the board of directors of Suez, in a letter addressed to the CEO of Veolia Antoine Frérot and sent by the group to the press.

However "the proposals that you made to us do not take up the objective of industrial logic. In this context, (...) we consider with the board of directors of Suez meeting today that the proposed operation, in particular the first stage of purchase of the block of 29.9% of the shares of Suez (held) by Engie, remains hostile. "

- "Skinning" -

Veolia announced at the end of August its intention to form a giant in the sector by buying out its historic rival Suez, which opposes it with all its might.

Faced with this resistance and the guarantees required by the State, a 23.6% shareholder in Engie, Veolia on Wednesday raised the offer made to the latter, to bring it to 3.4 billion euros.

Engie, who has until Monday midnight to accept it, had posited as a preliminary that Veolia formalizes "its unconditional commitment not to launch a takeover bid that is not friendly".

For his part, the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire insisted that the rapprochement between these two French flagships be done under friendly auspices.

Despite renewed opposition from Suez, the commitment made by Veolia opens the way, in theory, to an imminent outcome: Engie's green light for the sale of its shares.

Veolia's offer "expires by tomorrow evening and Engie's board of directors, which is being held tomorrow, will have to provide an answer by then", was content to declare a spokesperson for the energy specialist.

On the other hand, the alternative scenario of a takeover of Engie's shares by the Ardian fund seems to be having a bad time.

Engie warned Sunday that it would examine "an alternative offer" to that of Veolia "only if it is a firm offer and at a price at least equal to that of Veolia".

The counter-proposal sent to Engie by Ardian on Wednesday is only a letter of intent.

But has the favors of Suez, of the trade unions of the company but also of the former Minister of the Economy Arnaud Montebourg: it "allows Engie to give up its participation at a better price and to preserve the integrity of Suez", but also "to increase the participation of employees in the shareholding", wrote Mr. Montebourg in an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Jean Castex.

Calling on the government to act against this "carving up" of a group more than a hundred years old, which risks jeopardizing 4,000 jobs, he blasted what he considers to be "an oligarchic distribution of advantages in a small circle of friends privileged persons of power ".

© 2020 AFP