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The eco brief. Chantiers de l’Atlantique: the State wants to give itself time to find a partner other than the Italian Fincantieri


The site of Chantiers de l’Atlantique in Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique). (LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

Chantiers de l’Atlantique will not be taken over by Fincantieri. The decision was expected, it is the end of a soap opera that dates back to 2017: the Saint-Nazaire shipyards, which manufacture the large cruise ships, had then been released by their South Korean owner who had fallen into bankruptcy. Since then, the State has held 80% of the capital of the Chantiers. The Italian Fincantieri was in line to take over a little more than half of it, but the discussions were slow, Brussels having shown itself to be very demanding on this highly strategic file on the industrial level. Wednesday January 27, Paris and Rome invoked the economic crisis to throw in the towel. Key argument: it is impossible to predict the future of civilian shipbuilding in the current context, particularly with the fall in world tourism.

The plan to buy back Chantiers de l’Atlantique by the Italian Fincantieri was contested by the unions and local elected officials. Fincantieri is linked to a Chinese giant and an alliance between French and Italian could have brought the wolf into the fold. The crisis offers an honorable way out. A ploy, too, to avoid accusing the European Union of systematically blocking, as in the failed merger between Siemens and Alstom. A gentle way to turn the page.

What is considered a victory by local elected officials in the name of safeguarding French heritage does not bode well for the future of Chantiers de l’Atlantique, a national industrial flagship of course, but facing strong international competition, particularly from Asia. We have to find a partner for him. The French State is giving itself a little more time to reflect with elected officials and unions without officially having a plan B for the moment, but by integrating new constraints: building compatible eco-friendly boats, achieving more virtuous constructions. For now, Chantiers de l’Atlantique order books are full until 2024-2025.

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