French utilities Suez LYOE.PA and Gaz de France GAZ.PA moved closer to clinching a 90-billion-euro ($123 billion) merger on Sunday after agreeing terms that involve floating off shares in Suez's Environment business.
Here are some key dates in France's long-running attempt to form Europe's second-biggest listed utility after power giant EDF (EDF.PA).
February 21-22, 2006 - Italian utility Enel (ENEI.MI) says it could make a bid for rival Suez to get its hands on its Belgian power unit Electrabel.
February 25 - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announces planned merger of Suez and Gaz de France (GDF), raising protests and accusations of protectionism from Italy.
June 14-15 - Finance Minister Thierry Breton presents merger and GDF privatization plan to a non-voting session of Parliament and the upper Senate chamber.
June 19 - French government postpones decisive parliamentary debate on the GDF bill until September in the face of mounting opposition from the ruling conservatives.
June 28 - French cabinet approves the privatization bill.
August 29-31 - Parliamentary Commission reviews a record 137,449 amendments filed by left-wing opposition members in an attempt to filibuster the process.
September 7 - Parliament starts debate on GDF privatization.
Sept 27 - The French parliament approves the key article of an energy bill intended to pave the way for the merger.
Oct 3 - France's lower house of parliament approves the bill.
Nov 8 - The upper house of the French parliament gives final approval to the law on privatization of Gaz de France.
Nov 14 - The European Commission conditionally clears the planned merger.
Nov 21 - A Paris appeals court orders Gaz de France to postpone a board meeting called to approve its planned merger with Suez after trade unions demanded more time to examine the details, which means the merger cannot become effective until after France's presidential election in April and May.
May 2007 - France's conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential victory gives new impetus to the planned merger.
Sept 1 - Suez and GDF resumed talks on Saturday to try to reach a deal, with a union official saying the two utilities would hold board meetings on Sunday.