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French government urges cash-rich CMA CGM to help out as nation battles economic woes

Is the Macron, Saadé bromance on the rocks? Sensational, multi-billion euro record profits for CMA CGM are clashing with blanket hausse des prix (cost of living) headlines, with France skirting close to recession amid rampant inflation.

Yesterday France’s finance minister took aim at CMA CGM, and other transport and energy companies, warning them to share some of their profits or risk the wrath of government.

“A small number of companies have during the crisis made profits in sectors such energy or transport … I want them to give me strong proposals so that they give back a part of their profits to the French people,” Le Maire told C News TV.

“This can take the form of rebate on fuel prices or proposals by transport firms like CMA CGM. If they choose against not doing more, we will take our responsibilities,” he added.

According to Reuters, Le Maire has told CMA CGA specifically to reduce the cost of transporting materials used by the construction sector.

Earlier in the week, Le Maire had urged energy giant TotalEnergies to extend and increase rebates at the pump.

CMA CGM, which posted a record net profit of $18bn last year, is on track to make even more money in 2022.

President Emanuel Macron has to date had very close ties with Rodolphe Saadé, the chairman of CMA CGM, France’s largest shipping line, agreeing to help the line out financially at the start of the pandemic, visiting CMA CGM headquarters repeatedly as well as getting Saadé involved in a variety of maritime initiatives.

The global rhetoric against record profit-making liners shows little sign of easing. In the US earlier this month, president Joe Biden went as far as saying he’d like to have a “pop” at the container lines.

After the US recently introduced federal legislation to have greater oversight on liner activities, calls are growing for other jurisdictions, notably the UK, to follow suit. The UK has recently enacted windfall taxes on oil and gas producers.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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