France to nationalise EDF, search under way for new boss

07 July 2022

The French prime minister says the state will increase its shareholding in EDF from 84% to 100%, while the search for a successor to Chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy is under way.

The Belleville nuclear power plant (Image: EDF)

Re-elected President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year suggested the renationalisation of EDF as well as a big expansion of nuclear energy in the coming decades, with six new reactors planned, eight more considered as well as the development of small modular reactors.

And on Wednesday, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told France's lower house of Parliament: "I confirm to you today that the state intends to control 100% of EDF's capital."

In response to the announcement, EDF said: "The board of directors has taken note of the State's intention to hold 100% of EDF's capital and will provide all its support to achieve this, according to the terms adopted by the State and in the interest of all the parties concerned."

It has been a difficult year for EDF with its nuclear output falling as a result of the discovery of "unexpected stress corrosion" which led to the need to carry out checks across much of its French fleet. The cost of the lower than expected nuclear power output was estimated by EDF at EUR11 billion (USD11.2 billion) and in February it launched a EUR2.5 billion rights issue help its finances following the combined hit from lower output as well as the estimated EUR8 billion cost of measures imposed on it by President Macron to limit energy bills.

In its statement, EDF said that Lévy will have to stand down by 18 March 2023 because of the age limit set in the company's byelaws, and the choice of successor would be subject to a proposal by the board of directors to the State.

The statement added: "The board of directors has renewed its confidence in Jean-Bernard Lévy, who has confirmed that he will perform his duties until the appointment of his successor."

Reuters reported Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire as telling Europe 1 radio on Wednesday that the search for a successor was not a punishment for Lévy's criticism of the governmen for making it sell nuclear energy at a lower cost than rivals: "The roadmap for the future leader of EDF is to produce more ... as quickly as possible; it is the construction of six new EPR nuclear reactors and it is the continuation of the commitment in renewable energies.

"It has to be someone who masters the major industrial programmes ... and who has a sense of compromise. With the trade unions, with the European Commission, it will be necessary that we all find a compromise on the transformation of this company."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News