A VIP poses near a propeller during the float out ceremony of the MSC Meraviglia class ship at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in Saint-Nazaire, France, September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Deadline Looms For ‘Airbus Of The Sea’ Shipyard Deal

John Konrad
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December 30, 2020

MILAN, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri’s planned acquisition of state-controlled French rival Chantiers de l’Atlantique to create a European “Airbus of the Seas” is facing collapse barring last-minute political intervention from Paris or Rome.

With the offer due to expire in two days after repeated deadline extensions over competition concerns, the deal is still awaiting European antitrust approval in a market that has been completely transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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“There is no news on our side, we are taking no further action,” a spokesman for the Italian group said, adding that the group had made full submissions to the European Commission.

“A decision by Dec. 31 could only be political and taken by governments or by Brussels,” he said.

Originally launched in 2018, the planned tie-up between Fincantieri and Chantiers de l’Atlantique was intended to create a European champion in cruiseship construction.

However, completion has been delayed by European Commission concerns that the merger of two global leaders in an already concentrated market could increase prices for cruise ships.

An investigation was suspended in March to give the companies time to respond. But the situation has remained blocked, with no clear indication as to whether the deal will be able to proceed.

In addition, Fincantieri has faced strong opposition in France, where local politicians fear job losses and worry China could gain access to sensitive technology following a cooperation accord between Fincantieri and China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC).

Complicating the situation further, demand for cruise liners has been torpedoed by COVID-19, which ripped through a number of ships, leaving major customers like Carnival Corp struggling. For Fincantieri, whose own finances have been badly strained by the crisis, that has added to questions over the industrial rationale of the deal.

Earlier this month, Fincantieri Chairman Giampiero Massolo told Reuters the group expected a Commission decision by Dec. 31 and added: “If not, we’ll have to decide whether Chantiers is still a good deal.”

(Reporting by Elisa Anzolin, additional reporting by Giselda Vagnoni in Rome and Gwenaelle Barzic in Paris, editing by James Mackenzie and Dan Grebler, Reuters)

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