Reichsoffen, France (AFP) Dec 3, 2009
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Thursday hit back at charges of economic nationalism sparked by the sale of a major division of nuclear giant Areva to two French firms.
State-controlled Areva plans to sell its power transmission and distribution network to Alstom and Schneider Electric, having rejected bids from Japanese and US firms.
"I read in the press that we were are being accused of economic patriotism," Fillon told workers at an Alstom plant in eastern France.
"I would like to clarify a few points. The selection process was perfectly transparent and non-discriminatory," he added.
Fillon said the deal will "create a new French champion and frankly I am not embarrassed to take part in the creation of a new French champion."
Japanese high tech giant Toshiba and US conglomerate General Electric were also bidding for the unit that generates and distributes electricity. Toshiba claims that its offer was better than the French firms' bid.
The sale is estimated at 4.09 billion euros (6.13 billion dollars).
President Nicolas Sarkozy has made developing France's cutting-edge nuclear industry a priority and has been keen to keep it in French hands. Areva is 92 percent owned by the French state.
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