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    Veolia Vows No Hostile Bid for Suez


Suez's management are unconvinced, however, and favour an alternative offer from investment firm Ardian.

by: Joe Murphy

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Natural Gas & LNG News, Europe, Premium, Corporate, Appointments, News By Country, France

Veolia Vows No Hostile Bid for Suez

French water and waste utility Veolia said on October 4 it had committed not to launch a hostile takeover for smaller peer Suez if its bid for Engie's 29.9% stake in the company is successful. But Suez has said it is not convinced, favouring an alternative offer for Engie's shares from French investment firm Ardian. 

Veolia recently improved its offer for the Engie shares, raising the purchase price from 15.5 to €18/share, or €3.4bn ($4bn) and better terms for employees. Suez initially said it supported the deal.

Veolia issued a statement on October 4 saying it "unconditionally" committed not to pursue a hostile takeover, providing the guarantee that was demanded by Engie's board to make the stake sale possible. It also said its discussions with Suez' management were "constructive."

However, Suez said later in the day that Veolia's press release was "misleading" and that discussions between the two companies had failed. In a letter to Veolia CEO Antoine Frerot, Suez chairman Philippe Varin said "the proposal made, in particular the first step of buying a 29.9% stake of Suez from Engie, remains hostile."

Suez "showed goodwill and worked hard to find a solution that could be acceptable to everyone," Varin said, but Veolia's proposal was insufficient. According to Suez, Ardian is also in talks to buy Engie's stake, having filed a letter of intent on September 30. Suez supports this deal. When it rejected Veolia's bid September 17, Engie also made clear its interest in attracting rival bids.

New CEO for Engie

Amid these talks, Engie's board of directors has appointed Catherine MacGregor as its new CEO, the French energy company said on October 2.

MacGregor will assume the role on January 1 2021. Her predecessor Isabelle Kocher stepped down in May, and since then Engie's general secretary Claire Waysand has served as interim CEO.

MacGregor is a newcomer to Engie. She began her career at Schlumberger in 1995, where she worked for 23 years. During that time she held several senior management positions, including president of its drilling business between 2017 and 2019. She joined the executive committee of TechnipFMC last year, to lead its engineering and construction activities.

"On behalf of the board and employees of the group, I am pleased to welcome Catherine MacGregor and wish her full success in her missions," Engie board chairman Jean-Pierre Clamadieu said in a statement. "Her professional and personal skills will be essential assets in accelerating Engie's transformation."

"I would like to thank the board of directors for the confidence it shows in me," MacGregor said. "On the strength of our shared industry culture and my operational experience, I will work with all of our teams to achieve our goal of enabling Engie to accelerate the energy transition."

Former CEO Kocher was ousted by the board, which criticised her, among other things, for selling off coal and gas assets too cheaply and for weak performance in the company's electricity generation and gas infrastructure businesses.