Stalled French shipyard sale causes storm with Italy | News | DW | 01.08.2017
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Stalled French shipyard sale causes storm with Italy

Paris says it'll find other buyers if Italy doesn't agree to split ownership of France's biggest shipyard. It comes after the French government canceled a deal that gave a controlling stake to an Italian shipbuilder.

Italy refused to back down from its demands on Tuesday in a row with France over a shipyard sale.

Italian state-owned shipbuilder Fincantieri and another Italian investor were due to buy a controlling stake in STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire on the west coast of France. But new President Emmanuel Macron stepped in at the last minute to block the deal by temporarily nationalizing the shipyard.

Macron said at the time that he halted the deal to preserve French jobs and to protect the strategic importance of the yard, which is the only one in the country big enough to build aircraft carriers and other large warships.

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France wants to negotiate a new deal which splits ownership 50-50 between Fincantieri and STX's French shareholders, a prospect that Italy has resoundingly rejected.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire met with Italian Economic Minister Pier Carlo Padoan in Rome on Tuesday to try and resolve the impasse.

Padoan said after the meeting that he was resolute in opposing the 50-50 split.

"On this point, we will not change our minds," Padoan said. "We will have time to bridge the differences."

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Shortly before the meeting the French minister gave an interview to the Corriere della Sera daily, in which he said that France could look elsewhere for a deal if Italy did not compromise.

"We will be forced to consider other options if the negotiations ... don't go well," adding: "But I hope that won't be necessary."

The two ministers released a joint statement saying that a summit between Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, set for September 27, would aim to find a "mutually acceptable" outcome.

"The Italian and French governments express their common desire to overcome their differences regarding the capital structure of STX," it said.

The ministers said they would focus on building a major European naval industry player together.

"Our strategic objective is for France and Italy to build the Airbus of the naval world, in other words the world's number one naval industry champion. It is normal that this takes a little while," Le Maire said.

aw/jr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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