(Clarifies in bullet that Dassault family unavailable for
* Shareholder Dassault family trying to oust Frerot-magazine
* Veolia declines to comment, Dassault family unavailable
* Government denies interference in management appointments
PARIS, Feb 14 The Dassault family, the
second-biggest shareholder in French water and waste group
Veolia, is seeking to oust the company's Chief
Executive Antoine Frerot, according to a media report.
French weekly Le Point reported that the family is lobbying
to replace Frerot with David Azema, the head of French state
holding company APE, with the tacit support of the socialist
French government. Veolia declined to comment.
The Dassault family owns 5.99 percent of Veolia
Environnement's shares, which have lost 49 percent of their
value since it acquired its stake in October 2008.
Nobody was available for comment at the Dassault family. It
holds its stake via unlisted Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault,
which also has a majority holding in Dassault Aviation
, maker of the French Rafale warplane.
The French state is the top shareholder in Veolia with an
8.85 percent stake, held via state bank Caisse des Depots et
Consignations, Thomson Reuters data show.
An official at French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's
office told Reuters: "Matignon (the prime minister's office)
does not interfere in management appointments at private
Frerot's mandate runs until the group's next general
shareholders meeting on April 24. He has hinted that he is keen
on a second term.
Veolia shares fell 1.4 percent in light volume after the Le
Point report but recovered to close 0.7 percent higher, in line
with the broader index.
In February 2012, Frerot won the backing of his board to
stay on as chairman and chief executive following press reports
about an attempt by Henri Proglio - CEO of French
state-controlled utility EDF and former CEO of Veolia -
to replace him with conservative politician Jean-Louis Borloo.
Proglio was reported to be angry with Frerot, his former
right-hand man, for unwinding a debt-fuelled global expansion
drive led by Proglio.
Frerot has cut back Veolia's international presence to
around 40 countries from 77 a few years ago and has more than
halved the company's debt pile, which peaked at 16.5 billion
euros ($21.6 billion) in 2008.
At the end of 2013, Veolia's net financial debt stood at 8
to 9 billion euros, the firm said this month.
In November, EDF sold its 4.01 percent stake in Veolia and
the two firms are in the process of splitting up their energy
joint venture Dalkia, a process that has taken years because of
the acrimony between Frerot and Proglio.
French insurance company Groupama owned a 5.2 percent stake
in Veolia and the Qatari government 3.79 percent at the end of
June 2013, Thomson Reuters data show.
Veolia is the world's largest private supplier of drinking
water - providing water for 100 million people worldwide, and
treating waste water for 71 million people.
(Reporting by Julien Ponthus, Geert De Clercq and Alexandre
Boksenbaum; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Pravin Char)