French security agency to vet Suez UK sale

Regulatory approval for the £2 billion deal for Suez to buy back its UK recycling arm from Veolia is likely to take “a couple of months”. And, it has been revealed that consent for the acquisition of the British company is required from the ‘French National Security Agency’ [see clarification below].

Suez UK
Suez UK will become part of the 'new' Suez S.A. of France if the deal goes ahead

The requirement was disclosed in an email to suppliers sent by the Suez recycling and recovery UK chief, John Scanlon, soon after the global and French-headquartered Suez took up its right of first refusal on the company.

Suez was granted first refusal rights of its former UK assets as part of the sale negotiations with Veolia when Veolia acquired large parts of Suez earlier this year. After Veolia was unable to get its proposed acquisition of Suez UK approved in the UK, it had agreed a deal with Macquarie to sell it Suez UK.

Suez then opted to match the offer, and last week the pair signed an “irrevocable sale option” worth £2 billion for the acquisition of Suez’s former waste activities in the United Kingdom.


Clarification
Subsequent to publication of this article, Suez explained that the email from John Scanlon contained an error and the deal will in fact be referred to the Investment Security Unit (ISU) which sits within the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. [twice updated 27 September]


Approval

Mr Scanlon’s letter explained: “The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will need to approve whomever the new owner of our business is, to ensure they have the credentials to maintain us as a strong competitor in the UK waste and recycling market, both now and into the future.

“In addition, the purchase also needs to be approved by the European Works Council and the French National Security Agency. These steps will most likely take a couple months to complete.”

In the UK, the CMA will carry out a purchaser suitability assessment, which involves checking Suez has the necessary capability to compete, is committed to competing in the relevant markets and will not create any further competition concerns.

French-owned

Suez is owned by French asset manager Meridiam and US-owned GIP, who each have a 40% stake with the state-owned Groupe Caisse having a 20%.

The Group Caisse website has a slogan which translates to: ‘Together, let’s make France grow’

Group Caisse forms part of ‘Caisse des dépôts et consign- ations’, which is often described as the investment arm of the French state.

The ‘Frenchness’ and ambitions within Suez of promoting France are evidence within Group Caisse. The company’s slogan is ‘ensemble faisons grandir la France’, which translates to ‘together, let’s make France grow’.

This also means a share of Suez revenue in the UK is likely to go to a French state-owned business.

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