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Italy, France agree on shipbuilding deal, EU priorities

Staff Writer |
French economy minister Bruno Le Maire met with Italian Industry Minister Luigi Di Maio and his Italian counterpart, Giovanni Tria, in Rome to discuss Italian shipbuilding group Fincantieri's takeover of France's publicly-owned STX shipyards as well as joint European Union (EU) priorities, Italy's Economy Ministry said in a statement

incantieri's planned takeover of STX last year caused considerable tension between the two countries, with the French government blocking the deal by exercising pre-emption rights on STX capital in July 2017.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italy's then prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, ironed out their differences at a summit in Lyon the following September, when they ratified a deal giving the Italian company a 51 percent majority.

This bilateral meetings took place amid concerns that the deal as well as cooperation on the EU front could be hampered by Italy's two-month-old euroskeptic, protectionist government.

However, the French minister appeared to quell these concerns in a series of tweets.

"A very constructive and friendly meeting this morning in Rome with Luigi Di Maio: on the right path for STX/Fincantieri, common projects for industry and innovation, a common European will," tweeted Le Maire.

"Very useful exchanges this morning with Giovanni Tria for the advancement of our priorities for Europe, France, and Italy... fiscal convergence, eurozone budget, STX Fincantieri!" he tweeted.

Under terms of the deal, which was signed in February this year and published on the Italian shipbuilder's website, Fincantieri agreed to pay France 59.7 million euros (60 million U.S. dollars) for a 50 percent stake in STX, plus an additional 1 percent of share capital loaned to it by the French state for 12 years.

STX France (which was renamed Chantiers de l'Atlantique earlier this summer) employs about 2,600 people and posted 1.4 billion euros in revenue in 2016. Fincantieri employs 19,000 people in 20 shipyards across Europe, the Americas and Asia, and has turnover of over 4 billion euros, the Italian company said on its website.

Both companies design and build cruise ships, ferries, yachts, and specialized vessels. The deal between the two reportedly sets up a global leader with revenues of 10 billion euros.

Also on Wednesday, the ministers agreed to prioritize EU banking union, a common budget for the eurozone, the "rapid adoption" of a tax on internet giants who make profits in Europe but are headquartered overseas, and to "ensure swift progress" on the harmonization of corporate tax bases in Europe, said the statement.

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