Rise and fall of THE French state as a shareholder

The very notion of the “State as a Shareholder” is full of contradictions.


The State as a Shareholder wants everything and its opposite at the same time:


  • its patrimonial and political dimension
  • public service duties and market economy
  • priority to profitability and concern for regional planning
  • desire for reform but also social stability
  • openness to competition but also priority for national champions
  • appetite for dividends but also price regulation
  • short-term urgency and strategic vision
  • ever-greater quality with ever-fewer resources

These contradictory desiderata explain why France’s performance is so uneven: its achievements correspond primarily to the sectors in which the State as a Shareholder is involved.


AMONG THE ACHIEVEMENTS of the French State as a Shareholder:


  • success in a fast-growing sector despite the Covid (AIRBUS, NAVAL GROUP, SAFRAN and THALES) 
  • discreet but very effective pragmatism (in the case of RAFALE aircraft)
  • radical business model transformation (LA POSTE)

AMONG THE FAILURES of the French State as a Shareholder:



  • financial deterioration of EDF and its aging nuclear power plants
  • AIR FRANCE’s lack of competitiveness given the absence of structural reforms
  • the SNCF’s debt and its outdated railway network