Shares in EDF have surged on reports that the French government is prepared to pay more than €8bn (£6.8bn) to nationalise the energy company.
France’s prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, announced plans last week to take full control of the power group in an attempt to keep a handle on spiraling household electricity bills.
The cost of buying the 16% of EDF shares that the government does not already own, plus any outstanding convertible bonds, could be as high as €10bn, Reuters reported.
The reported move pushed EDF shares up by as much as 9.4% in early trading before later settling 6% higher at €10.26, valuing the company at €39.7bn.
EDF, which is building the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, dominates the French electricity market, with the country reliant on it for nuclear power. EDF’s nuclear production accounted for 69% of France’s electricity supplies in 2021.
However, this supply level is expected to slump to the lowest level in more than three decades this year due to a combination of maintenance, refuelling and repairs at 12 reactors across France.
The French government is trying to reduce its reliance on overseas energy imports as Europe scrambles to keep the lights on this winter.
There are growing concerns that Russia will not restart gas supplies into Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline after maintenance started on Monday. It is due to conclude on 21 July.
The French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, described a complete Russian gas cut-off as the “most likely scenario”. France procures about 17% of its gas from Russia but is not as badly affected by disruption to supplies as neighbors such as Germany.
Le Maire also said EDF’s chairman and chief executive, Jean-Bernard Lévy, who took the helm in 2014, will step down.
Antonio Totaro, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, said the nationalization is “largely good news” for EDF and the company’s bondholders as it signals the state’s commitment.
He said: “EDF has ambitious development plans in the nuclear industry, both in France and abroad – and this nationalization announcement could be read in parallel with [French president Emmanuel] Macron’s nuclear renaissance aims.”
In February, Macron said France would build at least six new nuclear reactors in the next few decades.
In the UK, EDF shut down one unit at Hinkley Point B last week and another is due to close on 1 August.
Hinkley Point C is not expected to be in operation until 2027 due to construction delays and EDF is awaiting a planning decision on the Sizewell C development in Suffolk, which was last week delayed to 20 July.