The French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has lashed out at an American private equity firm, accusing it of acting like the mafia in its takeover bid for a Toulouse-based aeronautics company.
New York-based Searchlight Capital is attempting to buy a controlling stake in Latécoère. Searchlight already owns 26 percent of Latécoère, which was founded in 1917, after buying shares in April, and is now moving to acquire the rest with its latest offer.
There are concerns among unions that any takeover by a private equity company will lead to job losses as it did in 2015 after a similar situation at Latécoère, the radio station France Bleu reported. Searchlight’s offer of €3.85 a share is equivalent to €366 million ($413 million).
“This is what happens when a country no longer defends its interests,” Le Pen, president of France’s National Rally party, and the main challenger in the presidential race to the liberal En Marche’s President Emmanuel Macron, tweeted in response to the news.
“Its strategic enterprises are at the mercy of foreign predators and mafia methods of investment funds. The passivity of the state is akin to complicity!”
Latécoère and Searchlight Capital did not respond immediately to Newsweek‘s requests for comment.
Le Pen is close to Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and campaign manager for President Donald Trump who is now trying to aid the rise of populist and nationalist parties in Europe through his Brussels-based organization The Movement.
During the 2017 presidential election in France, Trump, himself a nationalist, described Le Pen to Associated Press as the “strongest candidate,” though he denied that this amounted to an endorsement of her over Macron, who eventually won the contest.
For her part, Le Pen has looked to Trump as inspiration for what could happen in France. After his victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, Le Pen told CNN: “Donald Trump has made possible what was presented as completely impossible. So it’s a sign of hope for those who cannot bear wild globalization. They cannot bear the political life led by the elites.”
But the Searchlight-Latécoère issue brings into focus competing nationalisms. Trump is attempting to renegotiate trade deals the world over, including with the European Union, of which France is a leading member, to give greater and freer market access to U.S. firms. Trump believes the current deals are unfair.
At the same time, populist and nationalist leaders including Le Pen are railing against free trade, seeking protections for domestic industries and companies to shut foreign companies out of their markets, reducing international competition of the kind Trump is pushing for.