France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has offered to expand shipbuilding cooperation with Italy into naval vessels to renegotiate STX France shipyard ownership deal.
Le Maire said in an interview published on Sunday by Le Journal du Dimanche that he will open renegotiations in Rome on August 1, Reuters reports.
Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron temporarily nationalised France’s biggest shipyards STX France to prevent an Italian takeover by Fincantieri, ripping up a prior agreement in a protectionist move that infuriated Rome and startled EU capitals.
The shipyard is the only one in France which can build large military ships the size of aircraft carriers.
After the collapse of its South Korean owner, STX, last year, only one bidder came forward to buy its two-third holding for €79.5m (£71m), the Italian shipbuilders Fincantieri. Such a deal was controversial as it would allow the Italian firm to control a site of strategic interest for France, as well as potentially leaving thousands of French jobs more vulnerable in a downturn.
A compromise deal had been reached under Macron’s predecessor, François Hollande, which would have still effectively left Italy with a majority shareholding. Le Maire had withdrawn that agreement and instead proposed a 50-50 share with the Italians, an offer that expired on Thursday, prompting nationalisation.
Le Maire gave no details of the military offer but said it would build on planned collaboration in civilian vessels, creating a "European naval shipbuilder champion".
"If there's no deal (with Italy), we will stick with the current situation and look for other potential buyers.
But that's not what we want," he added.