Veolia strategy at sea over France-Corsica ferry stalemate
* CEO aims to get out of low-margin transport business
* Efforts to sell Transdev JV stymied by ferry operator
* Loss-making SNCM hit by EU order to repay state aid
* Veolia valuation suffering from stalemate on Transdev
By Geert De Clercq
MARSEILLE, France, June 22 (Reuters) - Veolia Environnement, a global leader in water and waste management, has a little local difficulty: an ailing France-Corsica ferry operator that weighs on its shares, gives its CEO nightmares and puts the brakes on its strategic plans.
At the end of 2012, new Chief Executive Antoine Frerot decided to get out of transport to focus Veolia on its higher-margin water, waste and energy businesses, and agreed with state-owned Caisse des Depots (CDC) that it would gradually stake over Veolia's stake in their joint venture Transdev, which runs trains, buses and taxis in about 20 countries.
CDC had one condition - that Veolia keep Transdev's 66 percent stake in Societe Nationale Corse Mediterranee (SNCM), a loss-making ferry operator that once had a monopoly on France-Corsica routes.
Frerot had hoped that selling Transdev, which has sales of 7 billion euros and staff of 90,000, would boost Veolia's margins and its valuation, which on a price-to-book basis is only two-thirds of rival Suez Environnement's. Continuación...