Number one in the sector, the group controlled by Rome wants to create an “Airbus of shipbuilding” by making use of STX France.
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A new era for the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique). After years of uncertainty about its future, the last great French manufacturer of ships should have a new owner : Fincantieri, the european leader in the sector. Tuesday 3 January, the commercial court of the central district of Seoul has designated the Italian group as the candidate of choice for resume French shipyards, which belonged so far to the south Korean conglomerate STX.
This change marks a turning point for Saint-Nazaire, where work more than 7 000 employees and sub-contractors. In 155 years, more than 120 ships are out of this historic site, whose Normandy, France and, in 2016, the Harmony-of-the-Seas the largest cruise ship ever designed.
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Released by Alstom in 2006, the construction sites were, since, passed into the hands of owners, norwegians and koreans who have not kept their promises. Saint-Nazaire is now expected to return in the bosom of a industrial the european Union. The Italian leaders trying to form a european champion, a “Airbus liners” powerful economically, but has also strong political connections : while the Italian State is the controlling shareholder of Fincantieri, the French State will retain its 33 % in the structure of French.
” Better margins “
” It is the right time to rebalance the market “, calls to Trieste, the headquarters of Fincantieri. Today, the cruise companies dictate their law, and the manufacturers earn very little money, seeing its leaders. the ” in the future, a set Fincantieri-STX will be able to weigh more and get better prices, means better margins. “
The court of Seoul had little choice. Fincantieri was the only one to have filed an offer in good and due form by the scheduled date, Monday December 26. The judges koreans would have been able to consider the price offered as too low, and launching a new call for tenders in the hope of recovering more money for the creditors of STX Offshore and Shipbuilding, placed into receivership in June 2016. They have preferred to keep that running. It was not said, indeed, that a new call would have been much more successful.
In November, the justice of the Korean was, however, identified at least four groups interested. But with the exception of Fincantieri, none gave a result. The businessman franco-lebanese Iskandar Safa was quick to let go. A mysterious candidate, ready on the paper to resume both Saint-Nazaire and the two shipyards of STX in Korea, has also ” evaporated “. Genting hong Kong, a chinese group member of the galaxy malaysian Genting, has also waived.
Specialist of cruise ships, Genting, however, was very excited by Saint-Nazaire, after you have purchased four shipyards in Germany in 2016. But the French authorities have made sure to discourage, indicate three sources concur.
at present, only Europe knows how to build ships. For the Elysee and Bercy, there was no question of helping China to enter into this business and growing high value-added. the ” Two or three meetings were used to explain to the officials of Genting how their intervention was not desired, and which means the State would implement if they were going farther “, says a close to the folder. The State, a minority shareholder, has a right of pre-emption on the majority of the capital. Above all, he would have been able to block a candidate judged to be dangerous by resorting to the decree Montebourg on foreign investments.
The ground thus cleared, the State, the trade unions and local politicians were hoping that their candidate favorite, the Dutch Damen, would prevail. A family group strong, ready to develop Saint-Nazaire, and supported by the two major customers of the ex-construction Sites of Atlantic, ship owners MSC and Royal Caribbean. In the planned setup, each would have held between 5 % and 16.5 % of the share capital. Thursday, December 22, the boss of Damen, René Berkvens, was still in Saint-Nazaire and to ensure the support of all the protagonists on the spot. the ” He has exhibited his project in French, and seemed very motivated, “ bears witness Francis January, the CFE-CGC.
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But over the course of the three days following the drafting of the final offer causes a clash between the members of the consortium formed around Damen, recounts one of those who have followed the negotiations. At the heart of the conflict, the future price policy. The Dutch industrialist wants to increase the rates to be charged by the shipyard, in order to straighten out their accounts and get a return on its investment. A perspective that is logically challenged by customers, the shipowners. In a few hours, the consortium is exploding. On Monday, Damen is not able to submit a tender solo.
Consolidate its domination
It is as well as Fincantieri finds himself alone on the track. The Italian group, one of the oldest european manufacturers of ships, had already put on the ranks in 2014 when STX was a first time planned to sell its French subsidiary. By absorbing Saint-Nazaire, one of its two main competitors, he hopes to consolidate for a long time its domination on the world market.
The case is not yet buckled. On the one hand, the power of the new set could be an incentive for some customers, or rivals as the German Meyer Werft, to seize the authorities of the respect of the competition in order to prevent the formation of a duopoly in Europe. On the other hand, the French State has not said its last word. Politically, he can hardly block the sale of Saint-Nazaire in a european industrial renowned. But the government would like an enlargement of the round table of the French subsidiary to the shipbuilder, military DCNS, that he is in control. This would reinforce the weight of the State, which already holds 33 % direct, and limit the influence of Fincantieri.
this could be coupled with specific measures to avoid leakage of technology to China. Fincantieri, founded in June 2016 as a joint venture with China State Shipbuilding Corp., a company controlled by Beijing, to build large cruise ships in China. With this alliance, the Chinese are likely to acquire valuable european know-how ? It is the anxiety of some in Saint-Nazaire.
nugget in a group in crisis
The shipyards of Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique) are the only profitable today of STX Offshore and Shipbuilding. While the south Korean group accuses from years of mounting losses caused by poor management and a global demand in berne, its French subsidiary has rebounded with gusto by improving its competitiveness, by starting to diversify its activities beyond cruise ships, and in gaining many contracts. MSC and Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, two major customers of the sites have yet confirmed the December 21, 2016 the 5 command ships, for a total amount of 4 billion euros. The book of orders of Saint-Nazaire is now completed until 2026.