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France clears sale of STX shipyard to Italy's Fincantieri

© AFP/File | France's STX shipyard will be sold to its Italian rival Fincantieri

PARIS (AFP) - 

The French government on Thursday gave its approval to the sale of STX France, the last gem in the country's once-thriving shipbuilding industry, to its Italian rival Fincantieri.

The shipyard, on the Atlantic coast of Brittany at Saint-Nazaire, has a storied history, producing such luxury liners as the Queen Mary 2 and the Normandie.

It has been majority owned by South Korea's STX Shipbuilding since 2008, but that company nearly went bankrupt a few years ago, and it has been looking to sell the profitable STX France business since 2013.

The government holds a minority 33 percent stake in the shipyard, and had considered nationalising the business in order to maintain the roughly 2,600 jobs at the site -- which also sustains a further 5,000 subcontracting jobs.

The deal approved Thursday calls for Fincantieri to acquire a stake of about 48 percent, while France's state-controlled naval shipbuilding DCNS will acquire 12 percent.

France will keep its 33 percent stake as well as a veto right, while an Italian investment group, Fundazione CR Trieste, will acquire the remaining shares.

Industry Minister Christophe Sirugue said Fincantieri would pursue "an ambitious industrial project" to bolster its cruise ship activity while diversifying into areas such as marine power.

STX, whose origins date to 1861, has 14 cruise ships on order between now and 2026 for its two main clients, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean.

Fincantieri, based in Trieste and with about 19,000 employees worldwide, was the only company to eventually bid for STX.

It has pledged to maintain jobs and activity at Saint-Nazaire, Sirugue said, but no financial terms of the deal were disclosed.

© 2017 AFP