back to article France may protect citizens' liberté with ban on foreigners buying local big data firms

France is considering regulating foreign takeovers of businesses in the data protection and artificial intelligence sectors, minister for the economy Bruno Le Maire said on Friday. Le Maire made the comments while touring China with French president Emmanuel Macron. The investment restrictions would be added to the Montebourg …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Interesting move

    But probably against EU law but there again that has not stopped them from doing that before now has it?

    Get the farmers out to block some main roads and burn some tyres. That will show those [redacted] in Brussels who is boss (which is actually germany but shhh don't tell them that)

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Interesting move

      Why? The UK could have stopped ARM's buy-out but didn't.

    2. Lotaresco

      Re: Interesting move

      "But probably against EU law"

      Not at all against EU law. It would be against EU law if France tried to stop EU countries owning data firms in France. China isn't in the EU.

      And yes EU competition law has stopped EU members preventing other EU members from trading in EU member states. It's what the ECJ enforces.

    3. Jess

      Re: But probably against EU law

      Only if it a block on non French ownership.

      I doubt there would be any serious issues if it were a block on non-EEA ownership.

      In fact what's the betting the whole EU adopts it? (Perhaps April next year.)

  2. Karlis 1
    Facepalm

    And once done wonder why not a single such company would be started under flag of France (not that there are many there).

    No sane investor/entrepreneur would pre-emptively block their exits like that.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      The fact that the French want to protect their data, knowledge, technology actually seems like a bloody good idea.

      1. streaky Silver badge

        Not like invest to exit is a thing or anything. I don't like it myself - it's why Europe and moreover the UK has nobody who is on a level with the likes of Microsoft or Google; but it *is* where the money is coming from. If you ban it the money stops, unintended consequence is you get less start-ups, you attract less talent and you get less tax receipts.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        seems like a bloody good idea.

        Hey want to invest in my French startup - it processes data.

        Cool, am I allowed to buy shares?

        Will you be able to IPO?

        If you are sucessfull, will you be able to sell the company ?

        Will the bank lend you money if it isn't allowed to sell assests ?

        Are you allowed to choose which customers to work with ?

        If the answer to all of the above is: "It depends on the politics of the French government or courts at the time" Then I might just pass

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Nothing new here though, business has always been closely tied to the governments, hence the reason that ministers can manage to buy second homes in warm countries ( without the taxman being aware)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If investors come to France or Europe only to gain access to the best technology without benefiting France or any other European country then they are not welcome

      Or more accurately then whatever French idiot set up the contract that allowed it should be fired, but it's always easier to blame the customer.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Buying what, exactly?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How it will unfortunately actually work....

    ...a bigger company will wish to pay X billions for company.

    French will so no, not allowed.

    Bigger company with unlimited resources will set up in direct competition

    French company will suffer and shares will tank.

    Unless a EU + UK consolidated tech plan happens, not much will change.

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: How it will unfortunately actually work....

      You missed out a step...

      French govt will make it policy that all government departments must use a French supplier of services, keeping the company afloat for some time before the inevitable happens.

      1. Steven Jones

        Re: How it will unfortunately actually work....

        Requiring French government departments to only use French suppliers would be illegal under EU competition laws, although if it's done implicitly...

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: How it will unfortunately actually work....

        French govt will make it policy that all government departments must use a French supplier of services, keeping the company afloat for some time before the inevitable happens.

        Today's news shows us that that never happens in the UK.

  5. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I made the argument last week that the EU was a protectionist gravy train and that it would become more protectionist in future and less competitive.

    It took less than a week for a decent example.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      This is France talking, not the EU.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "This is France talking, not the EU."

        After the UK joined the EEC someone made the snide comment that now maybe even France will join. Not much chance of that happening now.

    2. James 51 Silver badge

      When Chinese companies were dumping solar panels and steel at below cost prices (to minimise the impact of oversupply and a rapid industrial contraction in their own country), how are other countries suppose to respond? If companies with access to sensitive data or are major economic engines are bought, gutted and everything of value shipped being a protectionist firewall, how are other countries suppose to respond? China is probably the most guilty of this but there are examples from the US too.

    3. Lotaresco

      "I made the argument last week that the EU was a protectionist gravy train"

      You may well have done, but your voice may have been muffled if you were sitting down. The EU does what any trading block does, it protects its members. So the EU has rules that permit the free movement of goods and service *between members*. Those outside the EU have to take a back seat, which is true for any similar trading block such as NAFTA or TPP.

      May one suggest that you cease to read the Daily Mail?

  6. Chris Miller

    But, but, but

    The EU insists on the famous four "fundamental freedoms" (relating to movement of goods, services, capital and people) that are indivisible and unalterable. Which specifically includes the free movement of capital. Except in France, apparently (quelle surprise).

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: But, but, but

      I can't remember if it was the Scotish or Welsh devolved instituations but one of them wanted to use a local contractors as much as possible. When it came to the flooring there was some sort of legal challenge so that they then changed what was being ordered to match what a local firm was already producing. You'll probably find that France's laws regarding buying stuff apply to firms external to the EU but you can always rig things in advance to favour the outcome you want. The UK isn't so bad at that either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But, but, but

        You'll probably find that France's laws regarding buying stuff apply to firms external to the EU but you can always rig things in advance to favour the outcome you want.

        As they did when VCR imports from the Far East threatened Thomson. They bowed to the EU rule that the imports had to be accepted, but required them all to pass though one border post with only one part-time and very thorough customs official.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: But, but, but

      Notice that China is not in the EU.

    3. Duncanmhor

      Re: But, but, but

      Those freedoms apply to and within the EU. China is not a member of the EU.

  7. Dr_N Silver badge

    "Speaking to French television station BFM (video here in French), Le Maire said Chinese investment is welcomed, but not if it “plunders” French technology."

    He didn't say that. At least not in the cited clip.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > At least not in the cited clip.

      Correct, he said it last week "On accepte des investissements sur le long terme et pas des investissements de pillage", widely reported in the Fernch press.

  8. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Le Maire said Chinese investment is welcomed, but not if it “plunders” French technology.

    So rather than invest, the Chinese will simply use industrial espionage. Just like everybody else does.

  9. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Energy supply, water, transport, telecoms and public health

    EDF, Veolia, Keolis and French hospitals don't seem to be on a list over here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Energy supply, water, transport, telecoms and public health

      It's not all so rosy. I just tried to make an appointment with my ophthalmologist in a large French city, for a routine eye test. First available slot is July... Maybe I should have gone to SpecSavers.

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: Energy supply, water, transport, telecoms and public health

        Do SpecSavers do a retinal laser scan & Ocular tonometry?

        Have to agree ophthalmologist waiting lists seem to have ballooned. Especially when you compare to MRIs, X-rays etc that you can get in a matter of a few days in most cases.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Energy supply, water, transport, telecoms and public health

          > Do SpecSavers do a retinal laser scan & Ocular tonometry?

          Yes, of course, they are essential parts of a routine eye checkup. I changed opthalmos in France because my previous one was so rushed they didn't always do the tonometry.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Energy supply, water, transport, telecoms and public health

      I think you are a bit mixed up.

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Oo yes, because that worked so well last time

    When I was little, there used to be a French computer company. It got all sorts of protection from its friendly government. If this sort of policy works, it ought to be a major player now but ... I can't even remember the name.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Oo yes, because that worked so well last time

      After a series of ownerships by US computer companies it got bought by an even shadowier French owned company that seems to got unlimited amounts of freindly government contracts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oo yes, because that worked so well last time

      >When I was little, there used to be a French computer company.

      Bull. AKA ATOS.

  11. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    Alpha, Beta, Epsilon

    Pick your camps and your investments wisely, the good news is everybody has an extra day off. #wheresthesexrobotdudethesedays #bluemonday

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