Suez board rejects Veolia's takeover offer

PARIS (Reuters) - French waste and water management firm Suez said on Friday its board had unanimously rejected Veolia’s offer of 18 euros per share, formalising opposition to a bid after months of wrangling between the rivals.

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Veolia has argued its bid, which values Suez at 11.3 billion euros ($13.7 billion), would help create a global champion to take on rivals emerging in China and help develop new areas of recycling to respond to environmental concerns.

Suez said in a statement the offer threatened its corporate interests as it entailed dismantling the company, and did not bring clear benefits in areas such as innovation.

It added that guarantees on jobs were unsatisfactory, as they were limited to a time period, and that the price offered by Veolia did not reflect the value being created by Suez.

Veolia bought a 29.9% stake in Suez last October as a prelude to launching a full takeover offer, which it tabled earlier in February.

The two firms, which manage the bulk of France’s water supply networks and are rivals dating back to the 19th century, have been sparring for six months over Veolia’s approach, including in court.

The tussle could come to a head at Suez’s shareholder meeting in the spring, if investors make moves to shake up the board.

“The board of directors reiterates its wish to find a negotiated solution,” Suez said in its statement. “It will take whatever steps necessary to make sure that Veolia does not impose its interests at Suez’s shareholders’ meeting.”

Suez also reported a slightly better-than-expected net loss for 2020 and sales in line with forecasts.

($1 = 0.8237 euros)

Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic and Sarah White. Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Mark Potter