The renationalization of the French electricity company EDF takes shape. The Government of Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday its intention to launch a simplified takeover bid to acquire 15.9% of the shares that it does not yet control in the company that manages the country’s nuclear reactors. The operation, which Paris wants to carry out from September, will involve the payment of 12 euros per share, with a total cost estimated at 9,700 million euros. As soon as the Government revealed its plans, EDF shares, suspended on the Stock Exchange since July 13, have returned to trading with an increase of almost 15%, approaching the 12 euros per title proposed in the public offer of acquisition ( OPA).
The project to renationalize EDF 17 years after its IPO “is part of a climate emergency context and when the geopolitical situation imposes strong decisions to guarantee the independence and energy sovereignty of France,” explains the Ministry of Economy in the statement with which has announced the renationalization schedule. We must “guarantee our sovereignty in the face of the consequences of war [en Ucrania] and the colossal challenges that lie ahead”, the Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, had already said when she confirmed before the National Assembly, at the beginning of the month, the State’s intention to acquire 100% of the company’s shares. Being independent and sovereign in energy matters, the Government now underlines, means “being able to plan the means of production, transport and distribution of electricity in the very long term”.
The operation “strengthens France’s energy independence,” said Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire. “It gives EDF the necessary means to accelerate the implementation of the president’s new nuclear program and the deployment of renewable energy in France,” he added. In February, Macron presented his vision of energy policy until 2050, in the framework of which he announced the construction of six new generation EPR2 reactors until 2050 and the possibility of manufacturing another eight more in the coming years. He also expressed his desire to extend the life of all existing reactors beyond 50 years, as long as they do not pose a safety risk. Last week, in a televised interview, Macron also stressed the need to “accelerate” plans to increase the wind and solar farm in France.
The renationalisation will allow EDF to finance itself and take out loans at a moderate cost. The company is heavily indebted and in need of a lot of capital to, beyond building the new EPR2, also repair the reactors, around half of the 56 it has, currently paralyzed due to corrosion or scheduled maintenance problems, and which have lowered its energy production plans considerably this year. Their accounts were further burdened by the government’s order at the beginning of the year to sell electricity to other providers below market prices to guarantee the tariff shield to consumers, who have suffered no more than a 4% increase in their invoices this 2022. According to the Agence France Presse, the production difficulties of the nuclear park led the S&P agency to threaten EDF at the end of May with further worsening its solvency rating.
According to experts consulted by AFP, the nationalization will give “more security” to investors, will facilitate any plan to reorganize the company and will prevent minority investors from hindering these plans. Everything depends, however, on the National Assembly, where the Government no longer has an absolute majority, giving its approval to the bill to rectify the 2022 budget, which includes the necessary funds to carry out the EDF buyback operation.