Hands across the water industry

Anglo-French business partnerships are well established, writes Peter Rodgers
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The Independent Online
The most noticeable business links between Britain and France are in the water industry, where Compagnie Generale des Eaux owns a number of small local water companies.

Its compatriot, Lyonnaise des Eaux, another big construction and public works company that grew out of the water industry, last year bought Northumbrian Water, one of the larger stock market-quoted firms in the industry.

Generale des Eaux has also expanded into waste management, through a UK subsidiary called Onyx, and into private health care and energy management.

But Anglo-French business links are noticeable more by their rarity than by their prominence in the economy.

One successful Anglo-French partnership is in the drinks industry, where LVMH, the French drinks group that owns Moet Hennessy, controls 20 per cent of Guinness. In return Guinness owns 30 per cent of the Moet Hennessy offshoot of LVMH.

This cross-shareholding deal is typical of the relationship between French and British industry, where partnerships rather than aggressive takeovers have been the norm. There is no Anglo-French equivalent of the giant Anglo-Dutch combines Shell and Unilever.

Among the bettter known partnerships are GEC-Alsthom, a jointly owned company in the power generation business, Airbus Industrie, the aviation consortium in which British Aerospace has a stake, and ATR, an Anglo-Italian- French constructor of small commercial aircraft.

In the construction industry, the second Severn crossing is being built by a joint venture between John Laing and GTM-Entrepose, a French construction company

Meanwhile, the Anglo French channel tunnel company, Eurotunnel, used another Anglo French group, Transmanche Link to build the project.

A few years ago the French funeral firm Pompes Funebres Generales moved aggressively into the UK. But the tables were turned when the business was taken over by SCI of Texas, the biggest funeral company in the world.