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PUBLIC ENTITIES AND POLICIES
MANAGEMENT OF STATE
FINANCIAL HOLDINGS
DURING THE HEALTH
CRISIS
Thematic Public Report
Executive summary
February 2022
2
By the end of 2019, three entities were managing almost all the State's direct and indirect
financial holdings in the competitive sector, an amount valued at approximately €145
billion in
state financial statements:
-
Agence des participations de l’État
(APE), whose portfolio was valued in state financial
statements at approximately €89
billion (excluding CDC and Epic Bpifrance);
-
Caisse des dépôts et consignations
(CDC), considered an uncontrolled institution, valued
in state financial statements at €31.6
billion, including savings fund;
- Bpifrance, a joint subsidiary of the Bpifrance public institution and CDC, which is not
subject to a direct valuation in state financial statements, but the value of which can be
approximated through the valuation retained during the financial reorganisation of the
group in 2020, i.e. €24.2
billion
1
.
Main State financial holdings as of 31 December 2019
Source: APE
State Shareholder Report, 2019
2020
Interpretation: within each sector, the size of the circles is proportional to the market capitalisation (State share) for listed
companies (solid colour) and to the value of equity for unlisted companies (outline only).
1
As of 30 June 2020.
3
This report examines how these entities, in their role as shareholders, have suffered from
the health crisis that began in 2020 and continued in 2021, and the measures they have taken
to support companies with public holdings. It also examines the financial cost of the crisis, on
the one hand, for the companies concerned and, on the other hand, for the State itself from a
budgetary and asset point of view, limiting the scope to the year 2020. Beyond the effects
measured for 2020, the Court's investigation revealed that certain risks may not materialise
until the years to come. These probable costs
to which new needs justifying public
intervention (the energy transition and industry policies, in particular) could be added
call into
question the future of the State shareholder policy.
Public shareholders rallied very quickly, with powerful means of
action, and played a key role in a number of large-scale operations
Alongside the more general measures introduced to support the economy, the State very
quickly put in place exceptional resources to come to the aid of companies with public holdings
that were in difficulty, an approach facilitated by a transitional relaxation of the European State
aid regime. Budgetary resources were unlocked on an unprecedented scale, even if they were
actually rather under-used in 2020.
In 2020, APE played a key role in the implementation of emergency funding operations
and the recapitalisation of several large public companies, including Air France-KLM, Renault,
EDF and SNCF, even if, in some cases, it appears difficult to distinguish the share of these
operations that met short-term needs directly related to the health crisis from that which
covered more structural difficulties resulting, in particular, from the insufficient profitability of
these companies.
Caisse des dépôts
was also proactive, but did not have to implement rescue operations
of the same magnitude in 2020. It deployed a plan complementary to that of the State to shore
up the economy in its sectors of expertise, but its countercyclical role remained modest. The
savings fund was also used, including to finance Bpifrance’s cash flow.
Bpifrance rallied very quickly across all its lines of business, but its portfolio only required
a limited number of capital interventions. It also played a role as a service provider on behalf
of the State, for example, in managing State-backed loan guarantees (PGE) and implementing
sector investment funds financed as part of the recovery plan.
Companies hit by the health crisis, but in varying proportions,
depending on their sector specialisation
Examination of the income statements of companies within the scope of the study shows
that those whose shares are managed directly by APE have been among the hardest hit. With
the exception of some companies benefiting from military orders, all companies in the
transport, energy and aerospace sectors recorded sharp declines in their operating income
2
and net losses. Air France-KLM and Renault, which are among the flagships of the APE
portfolio, have particularly suffered, as have EDF and SNCF to a lesser extent. After
neutralising various operations, such as the State’s takeover of €25
billion worth of SNCF debt,
it can be estimated that the health crisis caused an €8.6
billion drop in the combined equity of
the divisions managed by APE.
CDC and its subsidiaries have seen their business affected, particularly in areas highly
exposed to the crisis, such as
Compagnie des Alpes
, which operates in the leisure industry,
and, to a certain extent, the postal services operations of the
La Poste
group, which became
2
Operating income is generally understood
as a company’s profit/loss, excluding any non
-operating revenue and
expenses, exceptional payments and income tax.
4
an integral part of the CDC group in 2020. The CDC group’s net result fell and only remained
positive thanks to the effects of the first consolidation of the
La Poste
group. Its shareholder
equity
fell by €3
billion.
Bpifrance occupies an intermediate position: while its financing division held up well in
terms of activity, its net income fell. Its investment activities were affected due to significant
sectoral exposure to the crisis. Overall, the group, whose financial architecture was completely
restructured in early 2020, posted a slight net loss. Although Bpifrance’s shareholder equity
reduced by €0.5
billion, the real impact of the crisis is estimated at €1.3
billion.
High costs for the State shareholder in 2020 and a financial impact
that is hard to estimate
The Court estimates that the budgetary cost to the State in relation to its role as
shareholder was in the region of €15.5–€20
billion in 2020
3
.
Evolution of dividends paid by non-financial companies
Source: Court of Accounts, using Chorus software
Estimating the loss in value of State assets is more difficult insofar as no consolidated
State accounts are available. The Court carried out an assessment of the loss of equity for
each shareholder division. However, with applicable standards sometimes differing according
to the divisions in question, it is not possible to simply add these figures together.
By using a common method to value all holdings within the scope of this study, which
presupposes various restatements, the Court arrives at an estimate of losses, measured by
the share of equity accruing directly or indirectly to the State, of around €11
billion in 2020.
3
Considering dividend losses linked to the crisis, deferred receipts from asset disposals, and increases in general
budget spending to fund measures targeted at companies with public holdings.
5
Additional variations
upwards or downwards
could modify these estimates beyond
31 December 2020. Above all, these are accounting valuations, which may be far from the
actual market values of the investments.
Financial consequences to anticipate beyond 2020
Caisse des dépôts
’ medium
-term plan has been updated to take into account the new
context brought about by the health crisis. If the risks related to the crisis persist (for example,
on the circumstances of
Compagnie des Alpes
), the major balances do not appear to be
compromised. Bpifrance’s
situation no longer appears critical and its results for the first six
months of the year were reassuring, even if certain medium-term risks are worth watching.
With regard to investments managed by APE, estimates were made in 2020 of additional
equity requirements needed to restore their situation to pre-crisis levels. While the underlying
assumptions can be questioned, the need for additional financing for some of the companies
concerned cannot be ruled out in the years beyond 2020.
A necessary update of the State shareholder, CDC and Bpifrance
doctrine
The State shareholder is facing a changing context resulting from the health crisis but
also from new needs related, in particular, to the impact of the energy transition, which directly
concerns many companies in its portfolio. This results in potentially significant funding needs,
depending on the orientations adopted, in the knowledge that its traditional revenue prospects
(dividends and disposals) are also being affected by the crisis.
This new context makes the doctrine of public shareholders
particularly that of APE,
which was based on the sale of shareholdings to help bring down the State's debt and fund
the growth needs of other companies in the portfolio
partly obsolete.
Furthermore, the investment doctrines of APE, CDC and Bpifrance should be
reformulated, ensuring a better articulation of their shareholder strategy. In particular, the
respective roles of these three entities in the financing and management of small holdings and
joint investment funds with private or public partners, which were widely used as part of the
recovery plan, should be clarified. This clarification should make it possible to strictly limit
simultaneous equity interventions of public shareholders and favour, in the event of joint
investments with private investors, equity interventions by CDC and Bpifrance.
6
Summary of recommendations
Recommendations on the management of public holdings
1.
Reunite the management of EDF shares by an APE takeover of the shares provided as an
endowment to Epic Bpifrance. (
APE
)
2.
Cancel budget programme 358
Exceptional strengthening of State financial holdings
from the
Emergency plan for the health crisis
in the near future. (
Budget department
)
Recommendations on information about public holdings
3.
Wihout undue delay
define the methods for consolidating the State’s direct and indirect
financial holdings. (DGFiP)
4.
Ensure the clarity and consistency of scope in financial communications relating to the
accounts of the Bpifrance group and its subsidiaries and provide more detailed information
on significant changes in methods or estimates that occurred during the financial year.
(Bpifrance)
5.
As of the 2022 accounts, make Bpifrance's sector exposure public by presenting all assets
by size and sector of activity, distinguishing between direct and indirect investments in
companies. (Bpifrance)
Recommendation on the State shareholder doctrine
6.
Update the doctrine of capital intervention in companies with public holdings to take into
account the new context brought about by the health crisis:
- specifying the grounds for public intervention;
- defining the financial resources that can be mobilised;
- and ensuring the shareholder strategies of the various divisions of public shareholders
are well articulated (
APE, CDC, Bpifrance
)