September 1, 2017 / 6:19 PM / 2 years ago

French, Italian ministers to hold talks on STX shipyard row

MILAN (Reuters) - French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Saturday he would meet his Italian counterpart on Sept. 11 to try to trash out an agreement over Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri’s (FCT.MI) blocked takeover bid for STX France shipyards.

Rome and Paris hope to resolve the issue in time for a Sept. 27 Franco-Italian summit.

“We are in the process of finding a compromise with the Italian government. I will be in Rome on the 11th of September to find a new compromise with Italian minister Pier Carlo Padoan and the government,” Le Maire told reporters on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti business conference in Italy.

“The cooperation between France and Fincantieri remains the best option for (STX) Saint Nazaire so we have to fix some problems... But I’m convinced that if everyone is able to make an effort we will find a compromise before the end of September.”

France angered Italy in July after it ordered a “temporary” nationalization of STX, cancelling a deal in which state-owned Fincantieri and another Italian investor had agreed to buy a 54.6 percent stake.

France took the decision after Fincantieri, which had agreed to buy the majority stake from its former Korean owners, refused a French government proposal to accept 50-50 ownership.

Le Maire said earlier this week he would make fresh proposals to Italy without giving details beyond saying they should be extended to Franco-Italian cooperation in the field of naval defense.

The nationalization of STX has added strain to France’s relations with Italy, where the growing influence of French investors on domestic businesses is under scrutiny.

The Italian government is looking into whether French group Vivendi (VIV.PA) duly informed the prime minister’s office of it exercising de facto control over phone company Telecom Italia (TIM) (TLIT.MI), which is considered a strategic national asset.

Rome could fine Vivendi, which has a 24 percent stake in TIM but has repeatedly denied controlling it, if it found the French group did not fulfill its obligations.

Rome cannot veto the acquisition of stakes in TIM or changes in control over the company if the buyer comes from within the European Union. But under “exceptional” circumstances, Italy could exercise a so-called “golden power” on a European buyer if there is serious risk to national security and the functioning of its communications network.

Le Maire said Italian investments in France were welcome. “I hope that also French investments are welcome in Italy.”

He reiterated France backed the idea of a European version of the International Monetary Fund and said that in coming weeks he would announce corporate privatizations to fund innovation to modernize France.

Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Valentina Za and Helen Popper

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