AMSTERDAM Jan 23 Big French companies,
including part state-owned EDF, GDF Suez and
Thales, are increasingly using holdings in the
Netherlands to reduce taxation, Dutch paper Het Financieele
Dagblad reported on Wednesday, citing its own research.
Energy companies EDF and GDF Suez, defence company Thales
and water company Veolia have all recently established
financial holdings in the Netherlands, the paper said.
The Netherlands is known for having tax agreements with many
other countries, which allow companies to cut their tax bill by
avoiding double taxation payments.
The newspaper said a total of 20 French companies, with
sales of more than 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion), have set up
financial holdings in the Netherlands to benefit from the
country's large number of bilateral tax agreements.
EDF declined to comment. A Thales spokesman said the company
had had a presence in the Netherlands dating back to 1922 and
that there had not been any change in the unit's purpose since
then. GDF and Veolia were not immediately available for comment.
The French state has stakes in all four companies, including
84 percent of EDF.
Tax avoidance has become a widely debated topic in France
since French actor Gerard Depardieu last month complained about
tax hikes for the rich, and France's richest man Bernard
Arnault's attempt to obtain a Belgian passport.
A Thales spokesman told Reuters: "Thales' presence in the
Netherlands is not motivated by tax reasons."
He said Thales was the largest Dutch defence contractor and
noted that the company had acquired Philips' defence
operations in 1989. The spokesman also said Thales in the
Netherlands was a global centre for radar and combat management
systems, which produced 500 million euros in revenue and had
some 2,000 employees.
($1 = 0.7526 euro)
(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger, Christian Plumb and Geert De
Clercq. Editing by Jane Merriman)