France to defend its interests in sale of STX shipyards: minister

November 3, 2016 7:38 AM EDT

General view at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in Saint-Nazaire, western France, October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

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By Emmanuel Jarry

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government has told South Korea it will oppose any solution for shipbuilder STX France that is against national industrial interests, Industry Minister Christophe Sirugue told Reuters on Thursday on the eve of a deadline for bids.

STX France is 66.7 percent owned by failed South Korean shipbuilding group STX <011810.KS>.

An insolvency court in South Korea ruled last month that the French arm could be sold either separately from the parent, or as part of a bigger sale. Bids are due by Nov. 4.

The French government, which owns the remaining 33.3 percent of STX France, hopes to strike a deal that separates the French arm from its South Korean parent and leaves the French state with a blocking minority stake. Aside from the stake ownership, France also has special bid-blocking powers related to strategic industries such as defense.

"We have two intervention tools and should there be offers that do not fit our industrial aspirations we will not hesitate to use them," Sirugue told Reuters.

Sirugue said he spoke by phone with Korea's Industry Minister and met with the country's ambassador to France to tell them that Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri (NYSE: FCT) and a consortium led by Dutch group Damen were likely to be among the bidders.

He said French state-controlled naval shipbuilder DCNS would be involved as well in the rescue of STX France, regardless of the solution found.

DCNS, said in October it was interested in investing in STX France, a naval shipbuilder which now specializes in building cruise ships.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and Dominique Vidalon; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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