September 20, 2019 / 11:33 AM / 3 months ago

French unions at EDF threaten more strikes over restructuring plan

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Electricite de France SA (EDF) is pictured on the facade of a building in Paris, France, August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - EDF (EDF.PA) unions said on Friday they would go on strike again next month if the French government did not withdraw plans to restructure the state-owned power utility.

More than a third of the firm’s French workforce went on strike on Thursday in protest against government plans that could open part of EDF’s business to more private investment.

Thursday’s strike cut French power generation by more than 10% but EDF avoided power cuts by reducing its exports. The walkout by four unions representing a majority of French energy workers was more disruptive than previous actions.

“If the project is not withdrawn, there will be new action and calls for strikes from Oct. 10,” the unions said, calling for a meeting with Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne in coming days to demand withdrawal of the plan.

Under the plan, known as “Project Hercule”, EDF, in which the state has an 84% stake, would be divided into two legal entities.

“EDF Blue” would hold nuclear power generation and possibly the hydro power and transmission businesses, while “EDF Green” would house renewables, retail, distribution grid and services activities, according to media reports.

The state would have full control of EDF Blue. It would hold 65% of EDF Green with the rest open for sale to private investors.

EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy has said the government has asked him to make proposals about a new structure by the end of the year, but the company has made few public comments about the shape of any restructuring.

The CEO said in May the company could split the centralized power generation activities from the rest of the group, with two balance sheets in an integrated firm, so the nuclear energy arm and the renewables arm could raise funds and invest separately.

Reporting by Paris Newsroom; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Geert De Clercq and Edmund Blair

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