Veolia Tweaks Suez Bid, Says It Can’t Satisfy All Demands

Veolia Environnement SA tweaked its hostile takeover offer for Suez SA to make it more palatable for labor unions, but acknowledged the new proposal probably wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the utility’s bosses.

The water and waste-treatment company, which bought almost 30% of Suez in October, offered to sell all of Suez’s French businesses to asset manager Meridiam in the event of a successful takeover. In an initial proposal, Veolia had agreed to offload just the French water business to Meridiam, and auction some of the waste-treatment assets in the country to resolve antitrust issues, infuriating labor unions.

Veolia’s latest proposal “lacks seriousness” because Suez’s French activities would be deprived of international growth and innovations without the backing of a large industrial group, Suez said in a statement Thursday. Veolia’s offer price remains unacceptable, it said.

Suez Chairman Philippe Varin and CEO Bertrand Camus have been trying to fend off Veolia boss Antoine Frerot’s takeover bid since it was first announced at the end of August with battles in courts and the political arena. They have said the 18 euro-per-share offer is significantly too low, and have expressed concerns about jobs and the viability of the Suez assets that Veolia would have to sell for antitrust reasons.

“I can’t satisfy all the demands of Mr. Varin and Mr. Camus, notably on the scope” of Suez that would remain outside Veolia, Frerot said at a press conference Thursday. There were no discussions between the two companies currently, he said.

‘Fair’ Offer

The offer is “good”and “fair,” and is more than 25% higher than Suez’s average three-month pre-pandemic share price, Frerot said.

Veolia’s latest offer would be abandoned if Suez was to sell some strategic assets, such as its waste activities in Australia and the U.K., Frerot said. In the absence of a deal with Veolia, it will be up to Suez shareholders to decide on the next steps at their next annual general meeting, he said.

Cleanaway Waste Management Ltd. has expressed interest in buying Suez’s Australia business, but there’s no certainty that talks will lead to a transaction, the Sydney-listed company said this month.

Given Veolia’s lack of willingness to hold talks and make serious proposals, Suez is pursuing its own industrial plans, the company said Thursday.

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