France to detail EDF nationalisation plan by July 19, shares suspended

By Sudip Kar-Gupta and Leigh Thomas

PARIS (Reuters) -The French government will announce by July 19 details of its plans to take full control of power group EDF, it said on Wednesday, as trading in the utility’s shares was suspended to keep the price in check.

France said last week it wanted to fully nationalise EDF, in which the state already holds an 84% stake, without explaining how it would do so. In a statement, the finance ministry said it would clarify its plans before the market opens on July 19 at the latest.

Taking EDF back under full state control would give the government greater licence to restructure the debt-laden group that runs the nation’s nuclear power plants, as it contends with a European energy crisis.

A finance ministry source said the suspension of EDF shares, which was requested by the company, was temporary and trading would resume once the government had made clear how it would fully nationalise the utility.

EDF has been grappling with extraordinary outages at its nuclear fleet, delays and cost overruns in building new reactors, and power tariff caps imposed by the government to shield French consumers from soaring electricity prices.

Two sources told Reuters this week that the government was poised to pay up to 10 billion euros to buy the 16% stake in the group it does not already own, after including the purchase of convertible bonds and a premium it is expected to offer to minority shareholders.

The sources said the state wanted to move quickly and would probably launch a voluntary offer on the market rather than push a nationalisation bill through parliament.

“The government may want to offer a sufficient premium to avoid legal challenges and resulting delays to the offer,” JPMorgan analysts said in a note.

EDF did not give a reason for requesting the suspension of its shares, which have risen 30% since the nationalisation announcement, increasing the cost of buying out minorities. The finance ministry source said the move was “among routine tools to manage financial markets in this kind of situation”.

“I would imagine it is to stop the price going up to a point that the French government ends up having to pay over the odds for the remaining shares in issue,” a London trader said.

The shares closed at 10.2250 euros on Tuesday.

In a sign of how badly reactor outages are affecting the company, which is expected to post a loss this year, EDF said power generation at its French nuclear reactors fell by 27.1% in June from a year earlier after the discovery of stress corrosion took several sites off line.

EDF has said it expects an 18.5 billion euro hit to its earnings in 2022 from production losses, and further losses of 10.2 billion euros from the energy price cap.

($1 = 0.9964 euros)

(Additional reporting by Joice Alves in London; Writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Louise Heavens, Edmund Blair and Jan Harvey)

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