France Shares its Power Company with the Public

The government is hoping to raise billions in the stock sale to bolster its shaky public university system.
Stephen TaubDecember 3, 2007

In its latest brush with capitalism, the French government has begun selling shares of state-owned power company Electricite de France. Proceeds, which the government hopes will be at least $7.38 billion, will be used to fund the country’s struggling universities, the Associated Press reported.

Depending on money managers’ hunger for the shares, the government could sell as many as 67.3 million of them, which would raise $8.27 billion, according to the report.

France hopes that plowing the money into the public university system will pacify students who protested a law passed this summer allowing universities more autonomy to raise private funding, the AP noted. The concern is that the law could lead to the commericalization of free public education.

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The stock sale comes as President Nicolas Sarkozy faces pressure from the European Union to contain spending. Critics worry that France’s budget deficit is moving dangerously close to the EU limit of 3 percent.

Earlier this year the government raised $3.91 billion when it sold a 5 percent stake of France Telecom.

According to the AP, EDF is one of Europe’s largest power generators, serving 37.8 million customers worldwide.

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