Martin Vial, Director General of the State Participation Agency: “We are going to develop our investment doctrine”

The privatizations of Aéroports de Paris and Engie will not “probably not” held before the presidential election, Martin Vial, director of the APE (State Participation Agency), indicated on franceinfo Wednesday (October 27th). Moreover, the state will “continue to support the capital of Air France-KLM”, he assures. “At the moment, there is no current file on these companies.”

The director of the APE, which manages the financial assets of the State within 83 companies (for a total of around 125 billion euros in assets), also reviewed the performance of the State as a shareholder.

franceinfo: What impact has the crisis had on the companies in which theEstate is present in the capital?

Martin Vial: This crisis had a considerable impact in 2020 on the companies in the portfolio, in particular because we have companies in the transport sector (Air France-KLM, SNCF, Aéroports de Paris NDLR), in the field of aeronautics with Airbus or Safran, and in the automotive industry with Renault. It must be realized that in the spring of 2020, many of these companies stopped their production. This had never happened in their history. They have shown extraordinary resilience, a great adaptation, with of course the massive support of the State. Today, because they have restructured, they find themselves at a level of competitiveness which is better than it was at the start of the crisis.

The State shareholder received in 2020 much less dividends than before the crisis.

Companies could not distribute dividends because their results had collapsed. Other companies have preferred to play it safe. In the spring of 2020, we did not know what the duration and extent of this crisis would be and they said to themselves ‘we are not going to distribute dividends, we want to keep this cash to face a difficult tomorrow’. So it is the conjunction of these two phenomena that led to a fall in dividends in 2020 with a total of 300 million euros. When I took office six years ago, theEtat collected about four billion euros in dividends per year.

THE’Ewill the state continue to support Air France-KLM, which is in difficulty?

We are shareholders of Air France-KLM and will remain so. I must say that the governance and the managers of the company have done a tremendous job of adapting their company to this crisis, and the restructuring being carried out today at Air France has no precedent. The group will find itself among the best airlines once the air transport resumes.

Will the crisis push you to change your missions?

We will no doubt change our investment doctrine because there are technological and environmental challenges. All companies must face up to this massive transition.

Where are the privatization files (ADP, Engie) suspended because of the pandemic?

For the moment, there are no current files on these companies. The priority for Engie, which the leaders do very well, is to refocus their activities around infrastructure and renewable energy.

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