” The State should know why he is a shareholder. ” this is your faculty that the Court of auditors has put the State shareholder at the corner this Wednesday. In a report, the guarantor of the good use of public funds is a strong incentive for the State to question its equity investments in the French economy. Obviously, the Court of auditors has very little confidence in the good management of the State shareholder. “ The State has not always demonstrated that he was a good shareholder “, says Didier Migaud, the First president of the Court of auditors. He recalled the case of Areva, whose accumulated losses since 2010 to reach nearly 10 billion euros, and that of Dexia, in which the disaster has cost 6.4 billion euros to the State and the Caisse des dépôts.
But that is critical of the Court of accounts today, it is more cumbersome omnipresence of the State in certain board of directors and de facto in the process of strategic decision-making. Even today, the State would continue to confuse ” guardianship and ownership “, and it is not uncommon that it ” sacrifie the self-management of his business “, says Didier Migaud. And for good reason, the State shareholder must reconcile the ” the objectives are many and sometimes contradictory “, adds the Court of auditors. It has in effect at the same time the roles of shareholder, holder of public policy, manager of public finance, regulator, or even a client.
More generally, the magistrates believe that “ the State shareholder is faced with the challenge of managing a legacy of very large, heterogeneous, and which strategic challenges are today the major in a financial context gradient “. The net book value of its holdings of nearly 100 billion euros. And in total, the number of companies that are majority owned by the State reached nearly 800,000 people in 2012, and would now be 3.3 % of salaried employment in France. What to say to Didier Migaud, ” the influence of the State on the productive sector remains very strong “.
In the ocean of the interests of the State – the Court of auditors has identified a little less than 1,800 companies that are majority-owned or secondarily by the agency of the interests of the State (EPA), the Caisse des dépôts (CDC) and BpiFrance – the magistrates of the rue Cambon have targeted the problems posed by the railway, and, in particular, the SNCF. In this sector, ” the State door of the requests are many and contradictory, between the creation of high-speed lines, the operation of which will be in deficit, the order of new trains to the usefulness uncertain to support the rail industry or the control of the group’s debt continues to grow “, says Didier Migaud. In energy too, the Court of auditors regrets the dividend policy of the State vis-à-vis EDF, which emerges in the absolute good financial results, but who is forced to go into debt to pay for its majority shareholder.
Avoid losing the influence
above all, more globally, companies owned by the State suffer a “worsening of their financial situation, ” notes the Court. For example, the performance of the portfolio of the agency for State participation (EPA) was better than that of the CAC 40 before 2010, but the situation has reversed since then : between 2010 and 2016, this performance has been positive 30 % for the CAC 40 and a negative of around 30% for the EPA. To reverse the trend, the magistrates of the rue Cambon, accordingly several options : one is to reduce the rate of participation of the State in the sectors fully opened to competition, in order to achieve a ten billion euros. The goal here would be to reduce the entries, but to keep the same level of influence.
The other option proposed by the Court of accounts is more brutal : it would be to reduce significantly the scope of the interests of the State – a new wave of privatization, in sum – to the limit ” grounds of detention specific, like the rescue companies whose failure would entail a systemic risk, or the protection of companies with interests vital to national security “. Problem, the massive sale of investments of the State would be likely to open the capital of the companies to international investors, not necessarily benevolent. This is why the Court of auditors considers that such a measure should be accompanied by regulations sector increased. Now responsible to the legislature as a decision-maker has to follow, or not, the recommendations of the Court of auditors.