“I confirm to you today the State’s intention to hold 100% of EDF’s capital. This development will enable EDF to strengthen its capacity to carry out ambitious and essential projects for our energy future as soon as possible”, declared the head of government in her general policy statement before the National Assembly.
Seventeen years after the opening of its capital and its IPO at the end of 2005, the electrician remains largely public, owned by the State at nearly 84%, by employees who own 1% and by institutional shareholders. and individuals for the remaining 15%.
But the group is heavily indebted and faced with heavy financial burdens, present and future.
The energy company has suffered setbacks, particularly in the construction of its new reactor model, the EPR being installed in Flamanville (Manche), which is more than ten years late and whose cost has almost quadrupled.
A corrosion problem also affects part of its fleet (12 reactors out of 56), which this year forced it to lower its production target several times.
In May, EDF, whose maintenance program was also postponed by Covid-19, thus estimated that the drop in its nuclear production planned for 2022 should cost it 18.5 billion euros in gross operating surplus.
Its financial situation has also deteriorated with the government’s decision to force it to sell more cheap electricity to its competitors, to contain the electricity bill of households and small professionals.
Recalling the attachment of the French to this “strategic” company, Elisabeth Borne declared during the 8 p.m. television news on TF1 that the government wanted to “have full control of this company and (…) give it the financial margins to the investments expected of it”.
– “Ensuring our sovereignty” –
The group intends to launch a program of new reactors, known as EPR2, while continuing to deploy in solar and wind power.
“The energy transition goes through nuclear,” insisted Ms. Borne, taking up the position adopted this winter by President Emmanuel Macron.
The Head of State announced in February the construction of six EPRs, the first commissioning of which is expected in 2035 or 2037, with an estimated cost of more than 50 billion euros.
The Parliament will also have to decide on the energy choices of France, with in particular a law expected in 2023.
“We must ensure our sovereignty in the face of the consequences of the war and the colossal challenges to come. We must take decisions, which, on these very benches, others have been able to take before us, in a period of history when the country also had to win the battle for energy and production,” Borne said solemnly on Wednesday.
In parallel with this total takeover by the State of EDF’s capital, the group is preparing to formalize the early departure of its CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy, whose mandate normally runs until May 2023, and the beginning of the search process for his successor, according to information from Les Echos.
The company’s stock jumped (8.9% at the close) on the Paris Stock Exchange, after losing 5% before the announcement that had been looming for some time.
But “EDF’s problems are above all under-capitalization and under-remuneration. It is not because we are renationalizing that we are strengthening EDF’s equity structure, it does not solve its financial problem. structural,” said Alexandre Grillat of the CFE Energies Federation on Wednesday.
“Nationalizing the company with the legal status of a public limited company is incoherent,” says Sébastien Menesplier, of the CGT Mines-Energie. The union calls to make it an Epic (public establishment of an industrial nature), to “take electricity out of the market” and “stop the Arenh device” (device for the sale of electricity at low cost to competition) .
Conversely, he fears that this renationalization is the prelude to “a new reform project”, after the long battle waged around the restructuring project carried by the government and the management, at this stage suspended.
Ms. Borne on Wednesday did not give further details on the intentions of the State and their contours.