(Bloomberg) — Suez SA backed a potential takeover bid led by private equity firm Ardian SAS, seeking to give investors an alternative as it fights an acquisition from French rival Veolia Environnement SA.
Ardian’s project, which has has yet be detailed, is “in the interest of Suez — its shareholders, its employees, its clients and all its stakeholders,” the water and waste-treatment company said in a statement on Sunday after the board reviewed the plan. The Ardian proposal is “built around growth,” and would allow for an employees’ shareholding to double, it added.
Suez said earlier Sunday it still considers Veolia’s approach to be hostile, adding further tension to a multi-stranded saga that’s drawn in the French government, and damping hopes that recent discussions could pave the way for a friendly tie-up between the two French giants .
Veolia’s offer to buy a 29.9% stake in Suez from French energy utility Engie SA for 3.4 billion ($4 billion) is seen as a prelude to a takeover of the whole company. The bid is set to expire Monday, putting pressure on Engie and Suez , which has also expressed concern about the risk of “creeping control” from Veolia.
The government, which holds 24% of Engie, has said a deal must not be hurried. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters Sunday that an agreement between Suez and Veolia is still possible.