Veolia could raise bid for Suez stake, CEO says

Credit: REUTERS/CHARLES PLATIAU

Veolia will not rule out increasing the price it has offered for a stake in rival French utility Suez, CEO Antoine Frerot said in a radio interview on Thursday.

Updates with more CEO comments

PARIS, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Veolia VIE.PAwill not rule out increasing the price it has offered for a stake in rival French utility Suez SEVI.PA, CEO Antoine Frerot said in a radio interview on Thursday.

Veolia last month offered 2.9 billion euros ($3.38 billion) for a 29.9% stake in Suez owned by Engie ENGIE.PA, with a view to subsequently taking full control of Suez by buying up more shares.

"Increasing the bid price is part of the possibilities," Veolia CEO Frerot said on BFM Business radio, adding he would meet on Thursday with Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, board chairman Engie, Suez's biggest shareholder.

Engie rejected Veolia's initial advance but has said it will consider a higher offer.

Suez sees Veolia's bid plan as hostile and is working on finding a consortium of investors to put together a rival bid for Engie's stake.

On Wednesday, Suez said it had put its French water business in a newly created foundation to preserve its "integrity".

Frerot said Suez's move to lodge its French water assets in the foundation was "a dirty trick" that was crimping Suez shareholders' rights. But the Veolia CEO also said this would not discourage its bid.

"Suez leadership is defending its job rather than the company and is betraying Suez, Engie and France," he said

Anticipating possible antitrust hurdles, Veolia has already said it would sell Suez's French water activities to Meridiam Infrastructure if the acquisition goes through to preserve competition and employment.

Suez said the foundation, which has been set up under Dutch law, will be managed by a majority of representatives or former representatives of Suez' employees.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane Merriman)

((geert.declercq@tr.com; +33 1 4949 5343; Reuters Messaging: Twitter: @gvdeclercq))

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