France nationalizes STX shipyard halting Italian takeover

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire on Thursday announced the country is temporarily nationalizing Europe’s only only shipyard capable of building aircraft carriers in a bid to find a better shareholder deal.

This means that Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, who earlier signed a heads of agreement deal with France, will not be taking over the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire.

Fincantieri was to take a controlling stake in the yard after its previous owner, South Korean STX, went bankrupt. Back in April this year, the French government, which holds a minority stake of 33 percent in the firm, gave French state-owned shipbuilder DCNS a minority stake. Additionally, to prevent Fincantieri from owning a controlling stake of over 50 percent, a 6.6 percent stake was given to an Italian investment body.

Amid fears that the investment body was too close to the Italian shipbuilder, France’s new government, led by Emanuel Macron, offered Fincantieri to split STX France equally between the two sides.

This was not welcomed in Italy where Fincantieri Chief Executive Giuseppe Bono on Wednesday said he would not accept “being treated worse than the Koreans” indicating the company could back away from the deal under the new conditions.

One day later, French economy minister Bruno Le Maire said France had made the decision to nationalize the shipyard in a temporary decision designed to give France more time for “better negotiations and a good agreement”. He added that France does not intend to keep STX under state ownership.

Retaining a stake in the company is important for France since STX France is the only shipyard in the country capable of constructing aircraft- and helicopter carriers.