June 12, 2008
French Government to take stake in Aker Yards France
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon this morning signed a partnership agreement with the Korean industrial group STX, represented by its chairman Kang Duk Soo, that will see the French Government take a stake of up to 9% in the capital of Chantiers de l'Atlantique.
Since March 2006, Chantiers de l'Atlantique has been owned 75% by Aker Yards and 25% by Alstom.
STX bought a 39.2 percent stake in Aker Yards for $800 million in October, making it the largest shareholder in Europe's biggest shipbuilder
According to a statement by Prime Minister Fillon's office, the 9% stake to be taken by the French state, along with the 25% held by Alstom, will make France a key partner in the industrial development strategy proposed by STX, which wants to make Chantiers de l'Atlantique the spearhead of its developments in the world cruise ship market,
The statement says the agreement is subject to the approval of the Aker Yards board--which seems to have been caught off guard by the French announcement.
"We are surprised to learn through the media that the French government has announced that they intend to buy a total of 34 percent of the shares in Aker Yards France based on a dialogue with STX," Aker Yards commented today.
"Aker Yards has significantly contributed to the positive development of financial results and in employment in Aker Yards France, and we appreciate that the yards are regarded as attractive. The Board of Directors has previously not considered to sell parts of our French activities. We see it as unlikely that Aker Yards will sell any part of our business if the terms are not attractive for both all of our owners and for the further development of the company. After learning about the French government's intentions today, we expect to receive more detailed information", said Svein Sivertsen, Chairman of the Aker Yards ASA Board of Directors.
Mr. Sivertsen may be in for a few more surprises.
Reuters is reporting that STX's Chairman Kang has told a Finnish financial daily that Aker Yards' Finnish yards don't meet STX's productivity targets and that if they don't get new orders they may face closure.
The Reuters story also reports Mr. Kang as saying he has met with the management of Wartsila.
"But I don't want to disclose yet any possible plans we may have together," Mr. Kang reportedly said.