South Korea Selects Fincantieri as STX France Preferred Bidder

PARIS — A South Korean court has picked Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to be the preferred bidder for STX France, with the French government keen to see naval specialist DCNS buying a minority stake of the shipyard, afternoon daily Le Monde reported Tuesday.

“The courts in Seoul had little choice,” the daily reported. “Fincantieri was the only one to make a last and final offer by the due date, Monday Dec. 26.”

Ownership of STX France, based at Saint-Nazaire, northern France, is a sensitive issue as its shipyard is the only one seen to be large enough to build an aircraft carrier, and there is deep concern over foreign control.

The Korean parent company, STX Offshore and Shipbuilding, holds 66 percent of the French subsidiary and filed for bankruptcy protection last year.

Fincantieri is a major European commercial shipbuilder, but there is anxiety in France that the Trieste-based firm agreed to transfer technology to China State Shipbuilding Corp. when the two companies set up a joint venture in June.

France “would like to see a widening of ownership of the French subsidiary to include the naval shipbuilder DCNS, which it controls,” Le Monde reported. That would limit Fincantieri’s influence as France holds a direct stake of 33 percent in STX France and DCNS is a state-owned company.

There is also legislation under the Montebourg decree, which allows Paris to block a foreign acquisition of assets deemed to be of strategic importance.

DCNS would consider taking up a stake in STX as the naval company has a “strategic” interest, DCNS Chairman Hervé Guillou said Oct. 12. The warship builder would rely on the STX yard to build the next helicopter carrier or aircraft carrier, so acquisition by a Chinese company would be a cause for concern.

Fincantieri declined comment, according to Reuters.

Paris bought a blocking 33.3 percent stake in STX France, when then-President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered the purchase in response to the acquisition of 66.6 percent by the Korean group in 2008.

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