President Macron open to takeover of French banks by European rivals

French President Emmanuel Macron during the "Choose France" FDI summit at the Chateau de Versailles, outside Paris. May 13, 2024.
French President Emmanuel Macron during the "Choose France" FDI summit at the Chateau de Versailles, outside Paris. May 13, 2024. Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP
Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP
By Eleanor Butler
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Cross-border solidarity is the key to European growth, says Macron, even if it means domestic companies falling into non-French hands.

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French President Emmanuel Macron is open to the possibility of major French banks being bought by European rivals, according to comments he gave to Bloomberg TV earlier this week.

Speaking on the sidelines of the "Choose France" summit at Versailles Palace, the President reiterated his long-time support for financial integration across EU states, notably supported by the capital markets union (CMU).

"Dealing as Europeans means you need consolidation as Europeans," said Macron.

Asked if he would be ready to accept the hypothetical sale of France's Société Générale bank to Spain's Santander, he replied: "Of course".

Initiatives to facilitate investment across EU borders have failed to make significant progress since former Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker first proposed the CMU back in 2015.

Streamlining a web of country-specific financial rules takes time, and this hasn't been helped by political opposition. Some member states fear that the union could widen the gap between smaller and more developed markets. Others worry about handing over regulatory control to a centralised body.

Earlier this year, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Macron threatened that movement on the CMU may be possible without the backing of all EU states.

"If there is a deadlock at 27, France will propose to make progress with an enhanced cooperation on this file because we absolutely must move forward," he said.

Several commentators have warned that, if the EU fails to alter its financial structures, Europe will fall behind competitors such as the US.

On Wednesday, speaking at an event in Brussels, Director of the IMF's European Department Alfred Kammer underlined the importance of making progress on the CMU.

"Currently, there are still large gaps between the United States and Europe in research and development expenditures in crucial technologies. In areas such as software and electronics use Europe has fallen behind," he said.

"Progress in these strategic areas requires higher private investment and public spending," Kammer added.

This is especially relevant when considering the challenges that Europe will face in the coming decades, such as climate change and ageing populations.

Also in his interview with Bloomberg, President Macron said that he does not approve a rumoured decision by TotalEnergies to move its primary listing to the US.

CEO of the oil giant Patrick Pouyanne told Bloomberg in April that he was considering moving Total shares to Wall Street.

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