The French government hopes that the sale of three state-owned energy companies will help repair its budget deficit. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the French Prime Minister, and Herve Gaymard, Minister for the Economy, Finance and Industry, have now signed a decree that will make Gaz de France the first to come to market.

France has already turned EDF and Gaz de France into limited companies, and it will now sell a stake in them without relinquishing state control over national energy strategy. The French government will retain a 70% share in Gaz de France.

The company has been preparing itself for several months, and all its employees are standing by to ensure this operation is a great success, commented Jean-Francois Cirelli, chairman and CEO of Gaz de France. The transfer of a part of its capital will enable Gaz de France to enjoy the resources it needs to pursue its plan for industrial and social development in Europe.