France and Monaco
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The 13 listed entities in which the French State maintains stakes are Aéroports de Paris (50.63%), Airbus Group (10.94%), Air France-KLM (17.58%), Areva (holds 28.83%; controls 86.52%), CNP Assurances (holds 1.11%; controls 66%), Dexia (5.73%), EDF (84.94%), Engie (28.7%), Orange (a direct 13.45% stake and a 9.60% stake through BPI France), PSA (13.68%), Renault (19.74%), Safran (14% of shares and 21.9% of voting rights), and Thalès 25.97%). Unlisted companies owned by the State include SNCF (rail), RATP (public transport), CDC (Caisse des dépôts et consignations) and La Banque Postale (bank). The government also has majority and minority stakes in small firms in a variety of sectors.
Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, including from state-owned banks or other state-owned investment vehicle. SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. SOEs may get subsidies and other financial resources from the government.
France, as a member of the European Union, is a party to the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization. Companies owned or controlled by the state behave largely like other companies in France and are subject to the same laws and tax code. The Boards of SOEs operate according to accepted French corporate governance principles as set out in the (private sector) AFEP-MEDEF Code of Corporate Governance. SOEs are required by law to publish an annual report, and the French Court of Audit conducts financial audits on all entities in which the state holds a majority interest. The French government appoints representatives to the Boards of Directors of all companies in which it holds significant numbers of shares, and manages its portfolio through a special unit attached to the Economics Ministry, the shareholding agency APE (Agence de Participations de l’Etat). A recent APE annual report highlighted the government’s strategy to keep a sufficient level of control in strategically important companies while scaling back its shareholdings in traditional industrial sectors to invest in growth companies in key sectors for economic growth. In 2015 and 2016, the government sold some of its holdings in Engie, and jet engine firm Safran, with proceeds used to reduce public debt and invest in its Public Investment Bank (BPI).
The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, including Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales. However, the government maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries. The government sold its stakes in the Nice and Lyon airports in November 2016.