PARIS (Reuters) - French state-owned bank Bpifrance, a key investor in local firms, said on Tuesday it had almost 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) to fend off potential activist funds’ attacks on French companies deemed to be of strategic importance to the country.
The comments by Bpifrance CEO Nicolas Dufourcq come with activist funds back on the radar in Paris after French activist fund CIAM this week targeted French reinsurer Scor, demanding corporate governance changes.
“We have all the tools. We have a little less than 2 billion euros in cash that would allow us to intervene in any given situation,” Dufourcq told reporters.
Bpifrance lends to and invests in French companies to support their expansion. Among its investments, it has a stake of around 9.6 percent in French telecoms company Orange and a 12 percent stake in Peugeot maker PSA.
Dufourcq did not specify which companies he considered strategic or elaborate on how Bpifrance would intervene if they came under attack from activist funds.
Last November, U.S. activist fund Elliott targeted French drinks group Pernod Ricard and demanded changes in corporate governance and new financial targets.
“We’ve seen that attack, and we know that activist funds are assets that are increasingly interesting pension funds and some sovereign funds because of their return,” Dufourcq said.
“All this money will end up spread on the market and there is no reason to believe France will be spared,” he added.
While Bpifrance has the capacity to fend off one or two attacks, Dufourcq reiterated his bank might need as much as 3 billion euros more if there was a bigger, general wave of activist funds targeting French companies.
($1 = 0.8856 euros)
Reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Editing by Inti Landauro/Sudip Kar-Gupta and Emelia Sithole-Matarise