Paris (AFP)

A dramatic turn in the Veolia-Suez-Engie saga: justice ordered Friday in summary the suspension of the purchase of Suez shares by Veolia, a decision which requires to consult the bodies representing the staff, but which does not necessarily compromise the operation.

The Paris court ordered in summary proceedings the "suspension of the operation" for the acquisition by the water and waste giant Veolia of the shares of its competitor Suez held by the energy company Engie, as well as of the takeover bid. coming from Veolia on Suez.

This suspension was decided as long as the social and economic committees (CSE) of Suez and Suez Eau France, at the origin of the procedure, will not have been "informed and consulted" on the "decisions already taken", according to the interim order.

Engie and Veolia immediately announced that they were going to appeal this interim order.

This decision "will have no impact on the transaction", however, estimated a spokesperson for Engie with AFP.

It "does not call into question the ownership of shares acquired by Veolia on October 6" and "has no legal basis", denounced Veolia for its part.

"Suez has not initiated an information-consultation procedure vis-à-vis its employee representative bodies since its management is opposed to the project. Make Veolia responsible for the failure to organize such a consultation is therefore perfectly ubiquitous since the group clearly did not have this power ", underlined Veolia.

"The trade unionists defend the general interest against those who abandon it from the top of the state. And they succeed. Thanks to them, Veolia is blocked", rejoiced on Twitter the leader of La France rebellious Jean -Luc Mélenchon.

On Monday evening, the board of directors of Engie, the main shareholder of Suez, had decided to accept the offer from Veolia, which expired at midnight, and to sell it most of its shares (29.9%) in its competitor Suez for 3.4 billion euros, ignoring the opposition of the State, which owns 22% of Engie.

The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) took note of this sale, which took place on Tuesday.

- "Obstruction offense" -

The decision on Friday "a priori does not call into question the transaction, but induces a longer procedure," commented analyst Christopher Dembik, head of economic research at Saxo Bank, to AFP.

"This means that it can not go further in the immediate future," confirmed to AFP Valérie Dolivet, lawyer for the CSE of the Economic and Social Union of Suez.

Franck Reinhold von Essen, secretary (CGT) of the European works council of Suez, declared to AFP "relieved that we can have the possibility to access the file and to be informed and consulted if the 'Hostile takeover had to come to an end.'

"We need to have detailed, economically-based and socially-oriented information to allow employee representation to have an informed and motivated opinion. It is a process that cannot be done without. That is what we are doing. recognized the court, it is an offense of obstruction ", he added.

"No! Messrs Clamadieu and Frérot (Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, president of Engie and Antoine Frérot, CEO of Veolia) you are not above the Labor Code and the laws of the Republic !!!", reacted the inter-union of Suez (CFE-CGC, CFDT, CFTC, CGT and FO) in a press release.

"This decision recognizes the right of Suez employees and their staff representatives to be involved in decisions directly impacting their future", add the unions, concluding: "the Veolia takeover bid, we don't want it !.

The representative bodies of Suez employees, who had referred Engie and Veolia in summary proceedings for having "not been informed and regularly consulted on this project", accuse the two giants of having fomented the operation long before the official announcement of Veolia's offer at the end of August.

At the Paris Bourse, the shares of the three companies linked by the operation fell sharply after the announcement of the court decision, before regaining a little strength.

At the close, Veolia lost 0.92% to 18.75 euros, Suez sold 0.62% to 15.90 euros and Engie gained 0.08% to 12.14 euros.

© 2020 AFP