(Updates with confirmation)
PARIS, April 6 (Reuters) - The French government said on Thursday it had reached a preliminary deal clearing the way for Italy’s Fincantieri to acquire a 48 percent stake in shipbuilder STX France, as Italian buyers aim to take control of the firm.
The company is being sold off following the collapse of South Korea’s STX shipbuilding group, but Fincantieri’s bid had raised fears for French jobs at STX’s site in Saint-Nazaire, on the Atlantic Coast, as well as for French interests.
France, which will retain its 33 percent stake in STX, had at one point contemplated nationalising the firm and was reluctant to allow Fincantieri alone to hold more than 50 percent of the company.
Italy’s 230-year-old Fincantieri had agreed to protect jobs and investment in France as part of the deal, French Industry Minister Christophe Sirugue told a news conference.
A privately-held Italian banking foundation, Fondazione CRT, will also take a stake of around 7 percent in STX France, while French military shipbuilder DCNS will have around 12 percent and a spot on the board.
“We’re still in discussions with Fincantieri but we’ve got through the toughest stage,” Sirugue said.
STX France, which has about 2,400 permanent workers at Saint-Nazaire, specialises in building cruise ships and also makes military vessels.
France has asked for a veto over the next 20 years on any move to shift a “substantial” part of operations at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard outside the country. It also demanded that Fincantieri retain a minority position for at least eight years. (Reporting by Yann Le Guernigou, Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Adrian Croft)