SUEZ WANTS BRUSSELS TO PREVENT VEOLIA FROM VOTING AT ITS AGM
by Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Suez will ask the European competition authority to reject Veolia’s request to be allowed to participate in the vote scheduled at the general meeting of Suez shareholders, we learned from people familiar with the matter.
Veolia, the main shareholder of Suez with a stake of 29.9%, wants to be able to vote at the annual general meeting in order to exclude members of the board of directors of Suez. The group also wants to deactivate a Dutch foundation created to prevent the sale of Suez’s Eau France activity and prevent the sale by Suez of assets.
European Union merger rules prevent companies from exercising any control or influence over their target before an agreement is validated by regulators.
Few of the exceptions are allowed, only when the acquiring company acts with the sole aim of preserving the full value of its investments or when regulators regard the agreement as a threat to respect for competition.
The EU decision could also take into account the potential effects of such an exception on third parties.
According to the sources, Suez plans to tell the European Commission this week that none of these exceptions apply to Veolia.
Suez declined a request for comment.
The measures taken by Suez to rule out the hostile approach of Veolia to the tune of 11.2 billion euros had no impact on the group’s investments, the sources added, highlighting the increase of more than 7% of the shares. of Suez since the launch of the Veolia offensive on February 7.
“All of the decisions made by the board have increased Suez’s value in the long run,” said one of the sources.
Allowing Veolia to vote at the general meeting of Suez shareholders would de facto mean allowing Veolia to de facto anticipate the approval of European regulators for its takeover offer, people familiar with the matter said.
“They want to be allowed to vote on the withdrawal of board members or on the appointment of board members. This is clearly an unprecedented step to take control of their target now,” said one of the members of the board. they.
Suez has not yet set a date for its annual general meeting, which must legally take place before the end of June.
(French version Jean Terzian, edited by Gwénaëlle Barzic)
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