The government of French President Emmanuel Macron is considering the further nationalisation of EDF, France’s giant energy utility, Le Parisien reports.
The aim of so-called "Project Hercules" is to bring some or all of the company’s nuclear sector, which carries long-term financial liabilities of some €50bn, into state ownership.
The idea is to improve the prospects of the rest of the company and gain "better control over the selling prices of electricity".
The move was trailed in February, by Jean-Bernard Lévy, the group’s chief executive, who announced that the utility would propose a restructuring to government by the end of the year.
The objective is also to free EDF from its €33bn debt pile and put it in a condition to receive future investment of as much as €100bn, according to the paper, which quotes an unnamed source as saying that "details of the plan are yet to be refined, but the overall idea has been approved".
At present, EDF generates 98GW of electricity in France, of which 73GW is from nuclear. And the French state owns 83.5% of it, with private investors holding 15.18% and its employees owning 1.2%.
Le Parisien notes that the cost of buying out private investors would be about €8bn.
Bringing their liabilities into public ownership could be controversial given the recent gilets jaunes demonstrations against Macron’s alleged bias in favour of business and other elites.
The difficulties with EDF’s huge nuclear operation was underlined earlier this year by reports that the flagship European pressurised reactor at Flamanville in Normandy (pictured) may be delayed for another two years to allow eight defective welds to be repaired, pushing up construction costs by €400m to €10.9bn.
The plan is expected to be become public on 28 May, according to Le Parisien, two days after the European elections, when EDF’s Board of Directors convenes its Strategy Committee, chaired by Mr Lévy, gives its opinion on the group’s major strategic orientations. The plan will then be presented to 200 top managers on 7 June.
Image: Flamanville is located on Normandy’s Cotentin Peninsula (Manche Tourism)