The proposed merger between gas of France and Suez enters a decisive phase. A nine days of parliamentary debate on the subject, which must start on 7 September at the Assembly, the Economic Affairs Committee begins this afternoon the examination of the text preparing the privatization of the Habs gas. In an interview with the "echoes", the Presidents of the two groups comment all the grievances by Brussels against the operation. They recognize for the first time that the transfer of the interest held in the Belgian electrician SPE "part of their thoughts", and provide not imagine "a single second" sale of the Belgian gas Distrigaz. Similarly, they exclude to separate from their transport infrastructure, unlike what had proposed this summer the former Industry Minister Patrick Devedjian. The pattern of Suez, Gérard Mestrallet, opens by elsewhere the way for a change in the parities of fusion, by promising that they will be fair end of the year, "when the shareholders will have to decide." The CEO of gas of France, Jean-François Cirelli, announcement of the next signature turn an "important agreement" with giant Gazprom, guaranteeing the deliveries of Russian gas for "a very long period".
The debate in Parliament and the community survey, the coming weeks to announce decisive for the merger Suez-gas of France. In what state of mind discuss this month of September
Gérard Mestrallet: Confident, but also aware that the work is not completed. We are on the path of the merge. The process takes place according to the initial schedule. The next steps will be obviously crucial for the operation. But I feel that the explanation very important efforts in recent weeks have borne fruit. Interest in our project seems to me better perceived, either by our employees, members or the public. The security of energy supply in Europe is now at the heart of the concerns. From this point of view, I believe that each begins to understand that the merger can bring positive. Positive for Europe, the France and consumers.
Jean-François Cirelli: It's true, we have clearly advanced. The summer has been beneficial to reflection and to our project. The strong commitment of Thierry Breton has contributed. Very many parliamentarians called me in recent weeks to ensure their support. Sometimes to request further explanations. Today, there is a consensus among the majority: everyone has understood that gas of France had to evolve. You can say many things on our proposed merger, but not is made without consultation.
The European Commission communicated you this ten days the grievances against the merger. His comments seem they justified
J.-f. v.: in any case, they do we are not surprised. As regards markets electrical and gas in Belgium, and the French market for the gas, the questions raised by Brussels were expected. The grievances about heat in France networks are only one small surprise. On this point, we thought that our merger could be a problem...
G. M.: Same set, Suez and gas of France would be number one in France, on this sector!
In this area, as in the other three mentioned by Brussels, you're ready therefore to making concessions to make acceptable approximation
J.-f. c.: we are actually ready to discuss with the Commission, and we will seek to address its concerns. Including transfers. I confirm that the assignment of our participation in SPE is part of our thinking. But, as a first step, we will make our arguments on the various issues raised. It is the subject of the email that we will send him at the weekend.
G. M.: It is up to bring appropriate solutions to ensure adequate competition on each of the identified markets. But these remedies, it will be for later. The likely end of September. And they summarize not only to assignments of assets: to correct any violations competition, behavioural commitments can be proposed as assignments of capacity in the gas or electricity. In any event, transfers of assets to us be imposed in France or Belgium, we strive then find their equivalent in other European markets, so that the group keeps the same size and same industrial presence.
From this point of view, that suggests the statement of objections you worried about
J.-f. v.: what we have now identified only questioned the logic industrial, strategic and financial project.
This means that in your eyes, the heritage separation of your network or storage activities is not the order of the day
J.-f. v.: our belief is that we can settle the problems raised by Brussels withoutto give control of our infrastructure. In our minds, it is not question of engaging in a project that would lead to separate us from our transportation system. I think that this point has been well understood by the Commission.
The reasoning applies for the Belgium and the Manager of the transportation network, Fluxys
G. M.: absolutely. Moreover, why would it be otherwise while no European directive does not impose this heritage separation If there are improvements in terms of the regulation and the functioning of this infrastructure, we are open to discussions, but in the current configuration, it seems to us that the ownership of the networks in no way impedes competition.
J.-f. c.: if he had evidence, I would remind that the association of users of networks class TSO gas, SFM transport network, among the first five Europeans in terms of quality and neutrality of operation. In the Commission, energy and transport branch sees itself as TSO gas meets the seven criteria of functioning of an independent network and quality.
Since the announcement of your approximation, the transfer of part of the nuclear power plants operated by Electrabel and Distrigaz is regularly mentioned in Belgium. The grievances by Brussels do it fear such concessions
G. M.: I would imagine not a single second. We will find suitable and reasonable solutions. With regard to the gas market, the concern of the Commission must be to ensure that the level of competition is not damaged by the merger. In Belgium, marriage Distrigaz-GDF would inflate our market share of 12. We must therefore remedy this situation, by passing them at least back the equivalent of these additional market share to competitors. Would require the sale of the rest seem to me for less disproportionate.
Hear you, we have the feeling that the Commission is well weather this transaction...
J.-f. c.: no, we take their comments very seriously. The Commission is perfectly in his role when it tries to correct what it considers to be violations of the competition. At the same time, it is difficult to deny that the GDF-Suez Merger promotes competition in the sector, and that it meets a major concern: to ensure the security of supply for European consumers.
G. M.: Approval fast and without condition of Brussels for a possible merge E .on-Endesa shows well: Energy Europe is evolving, and implies the constitution of large pan-European, these groups both in the electricity and gas. These new actors will have to be large enough to invest in new infrastructure, but also to negotiate with the producer countries.
In this regard, that you based on the agreement reached earlier this month between Gazprom and Sonatrach
G. M.: This rapprochement between two of the historical partners of Suez and gas of France can be serious consequences for European consumers. In the immediate future, it shows above all that we, clients, have reason to hold us to weigh more heavy. Because in this profession, more is large, better it negotiates...
J.-f. c.: I would add that the recent initiatives taken by Gazprom compromise in any way the relations woven for thirty years between the France and the Russia. While our current supply contract runs through 2012, I think I can very quickly announce the signing of an important agreement to supply, we ensure the volumes of Russian gas for a very long period. In the current context, this visibility is obviously significant. Gazprom will remain thus a privileged partner of the new group.
After the merger, some predict even that this partner might be tempted to absorb Suez and gas of France... Do you ever think about
G. M.: We do not fear this scenario. Imagine launching a hostile bid on a group whose capitalization will exceed 70 billion euros, of which the State will have a part of the capital, and a number of activities are strategic in nature Do me really not in the order of things.
J.-f. c.: I know well the Chairman of Gazprom, Alexei Miller, and I can assure you that it is not at all in its intentions to buy gas from France, and still less the set that we train tomorrow with Suez. Its priority now to invest in production and develop transport networks.
Since February, the valuation of your two companies are have converged. Parity for the merger (1 action GDF Suez 1 action) you think it still "just and equitable"
G. M.: Each thing in its time. We are obviously listening to the market. Make today the time of the consultation with members of Parliament, trade unions and Brussels services. Come end of the year, the general assemblies. Parity was fair at the time of this announcement, in February. It will be when our shareholders will have to decide.