Bpifrance confident about the French economy in 2019

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PARIS (More Bank) – The bpifrance public bank, which benefited from a good end of the year despite the "yellow jackets" crisis that rocked France, said it was unlikely a turnaround in 2019, said its general manager Nicolas Dufourcq.

According to figures published by INSEE on Wednesday, the French economy has held up better than expected in the last quarter of 2018 with an increase of 0.3%, identical to that of the third quarter, but economists anticipate a further slowdown in 2019.

"One could have imagined that the crisis of the 'Yellow Vests' would degrade the profile of the French macroenomy but for the moment, this is not the case," said Nicolas Dufourcq on the occasion of the publication Thursday of the balance sheet 2018.

Bpifrance, which is equally owned by the French government and the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC), recorded a "good" start to the year and its growth prospects for 2019 are "quite significant".

"This is not at all a year when we anticipate a turnaround.The engines of the French economy are absolutely still there and there is in particular an engine that was not there in 2018 which is the Keynesian revival of the consumption, "explained the leader, referring to the measures favorable to the purchasing power of the last two months.

The year 2018 was marked for bpifrance by a record activity in terms of financing, representing a total of 19 billion euros (+ 9%), despite a slight decline in aid and loans for innovation (- 10.2%).

NO ORANGE DISENGAGEMENT ON THE AGENDA

This item should return to growth in 2019 to move between 1.3 and 1.4 billion euros (1.2 billion in 2018) with among other things the launch of the "Deeptech" plan to bring out nuggets from the academic world.

Bpifrance, which combines banking, investment fund, consulting and start-up accelerator caps, continued to evolve its scope of investments in 2018 with a total of € 496 million in disposals. large and mid caps, down significantly from the previous year's 1.5 billion.

Possible new disposals among these large listed companies should remain limited in 2019.

"We have 1.5 billion cash, so we do not need to make strategic disposals in the short term," said Nicolas Dufourcq, who is anticipating two to three IPOs over the next three years. within the entire portfolio.

Asked about the particular case of Orange, in which the BPI holds a little less than 10%, he said that a disengagement of the leading French telecom operator was not on the agenda.

In terms of investments, the bank, which should have achieved a net income close to one billion euros in 2018, hopes to strengthen again in the energy transition sector to return to an exposure level of about 200 million euros, while coveting the sector it considers strategic of private education.

Bpifrance, whose teams were mobilized in 2018 by governance changes in several "systemic" companies like Nexans or Ingenico, also monitors the activity of the activist funds.

"All investment funds are watching the growth in the number of activist tickets worldwide," said Nicolas Dufourcq.

"We will certainly have to look at this, there are a lot of French companies that are potentially fragile in the face of activist funds," he added.

(Gwénaëlle Barzic, with Inti Landauro, edited by Jean Terzian)