Sarkozy launches €20 billion 'strategic' industries fund

21.11.08 @ 09:38

  1. By Elitsa Vucheva

France will pay out €20 billion to protect its key industries in the wake of the global financial crisis via the creation of a strategic investment fund - the country's first sovereign wealth fund, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday (20 November).

  • Mr Sarkozy does not want France transformed into "a simple tourist reserve." (Photo: European Parliament - Audiovisual Unit)

Following up on his idea first brought up three weeks ago to protect French businesses from "foreign hands," Mr Sarkozy also announced the new fund's first €80 million investment would go to industrial supplier Daher, which works in the aerospace, defence, nuclear and automotive industries.

According to the French president, firms that have "competences, technologies and jobs that are irreplaceable for the national territory" qualify as "strategic" ones and deserve special treatment.

"The day we don't build trains, aeroplanes, automobiles and ships, what will be left of the French economy? Memories. I will not make France a simple tourist reserve," he said.

The fund will be managed by state-controlled lender Caisse des Depots et Consignations, and should be operational as of next month, French daily Le Figaro writes.

"I want France to keep its factories, I want this process of factory relocation and outsourcing to stop and I want firms with the potential to develop to be able to do so, even if financial institutions at the moment are a little timid," the French president said.

Although it will consist of €20 billion in the beginning, it could later increase "if it works," Mr Sarkozy said, and added that foreign investors, notably other sovereign wealth funds, would be welcome to join and form alliances.

Dinner with the commission president

Later on Thursday, Mr Sarkozy hosted a dinner in Paris with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to discuss a European stimulus plan that Brussels is expected to present next week.

Details of the dinner talks are not known, but French daily Les Echos said the goal was to "put the finishing touches" to the stimulus package.

Speaking to the press earlier in the day, Mr Barroso declined to confirm previous reports that the package the commission will present would be worth some €130 billion, saying that a decision on the amount had not yet been taken.

"What we need is a co-ordinated European Union response, big enough, bold enough to work in the short term, yet strategic and sustainable enough to turn the crisis into an opportunity in the longer term," the commission president said after talks with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme in Brussels.

Mr Barroso and Mr Sarkozy also discussed the forthcoming December meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, "notably the European response to the economic situation and the negotiation of the climate and energy package," said a communique from the French president's office.

Mr Sarkozy is also to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris on Monday to try to find a way to work together in order to boost the economy, Reuters reports.

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