September 5, 2017 / 10:20 PM / a year ago

France kicks off privatizations with sale of Engie stake

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government kicked off a planned asset sales plan with the sale of a 4.5 percent stake in gas utility Engie SA (ENGIE.PA) for 1.53 billion euros ($1.82 billion), the finance ministry said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of French gas and power group Engie is seen at the CRIGEN, the Engie Group research and operational expertise center, in Saint-Denis near Paris, France, Saint-Denis, France, February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in a statement that the Engie sale is the first step in a 10 billion-euro state asset sales plan announced in July.

“The proceeds of this operation will go towards the planned innovation fund,” Le Maire said.

He added that the state wants to deploy its resources where they are most needed, notably to fund innovation.

New French President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants to redeploy state funds locked up in companies in non-strategic, mature industries to invest in innovative start-up companies.

State holding company APE said in a separate statement that following the stake sale - which included the sale of a 4.1 percent stake to institutional investors at 13.80 euros per share - the APE will hold 24.1 percent of Engie’s capital and 27.6 percent of the voting rights. The state remains the leading Engie shareholder following the sale, APE said.

The operation also included the sale of a 0.46 percent stake to Engie itself, which will be used for employee share awards.

Banking sources told Reuters last month that the national lottery, Paris’s main airport operator, Engie and several other firms deemed not strategic were set to be part of a wave of French privatizations this autumn.

(1 euro = $1.19)

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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