* State holding firm chief denies candidacy for CEO job
* Board to vote on CEO March 12, meets on results Wednesday
* Dassault a minority shareholder with 6 percent
(Adds comments, background)
PARIS, Feb 25 France said on Tuesday David
Azema, the head of French state holding company APE, would have
to appear before a government ethics commission before he could
seek the top job at water and waste group Veolia, even though he
denied he was a candidate.
Earlier this month, a French magazine said the Dassault
family, the second-biggest shareholder in Veolia Environnement
., was seeking to oust Chief Executive Antoine Frerot to
replace him with Azema.
French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said Azema would
have to appear before the commission and accept a review of
possible conflicts of interest if he wanted the job, apparently
indirectly confirming the report.
Montebourg told reporters at the European American Press
Club the government would make a statement about Azema's
candidacy at the end of that commission's investigation.
But Ameza told Reuters later on Tuesday: "I have received no
firm request from the nominations committee of Veolia to occupy
the function of chief executive. I am not a candidate for this
He made no comment on whether he had had informal
discussions with Dassault about the position. He said no dossier
had been deposited with the ethics commission.
The French state is the top shareholder in Veolia with an
8.9 percent stake, held via state bank Caisse des Depots et
The CDC and Veolia declined to comment.
The Dassault family - which holds its 6.0 percent stake via
unlisted Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault, which also has a
majority holding in Dassault Aviation, maker of the
French Rafale warplane - was not available for comment.
Two weeks ago, when French magazine Le Point reported that
Dassault was seeking to oust Frerot, an official at French Prime
Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's office told Reuters the government
"does not interfere in management appointments at private
Frerot's mandate runs until the group's next general
shareholders meeting on April 24. Veolia's board is due to
formally vote on the renewal of his mandate at a March 12
meeting. The board is also meeting on Wednesday to approve the
2013 earnings, which will be released on Thursday.
Board members might informally discuss the Veolia leadership
issue, but are unlikely to make a decision on Wednesday.
Frerot has not formally put forward his candidacy but has
hinted that he is keen on a second term.
"My vision goes beyond the month of April," he said during a
strategy briefing early this month.
With a two-year cost-cutting and debt-reduction plan largely
done, the French water, waste and energy group is targeting
areas with high growth potential, to make up for falling margins
in its traditional water business and lower volumes and prices
in its cyclical waste business.
(Reporting by Nick Vinocur, Benjamin Mallet and Geert De
Clercq; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Alison Williams)