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Eager to win market share from London, France eases debt issue rules

[PARIS] The French government loosened the rules on Monday for international borrowers issuing short and medium term debt, in an effort to enhance Paris's role as the eurozone's top centre for corporate debt.

France is eager to make Paris an alternative to London, whose dominance as Europe's top financial centre is at risk from Britain's referendum on whether to remain a member of the European Union, despite high French taxes and occasional political hostility towards the sector.

"We hope that our British friends will remain at the heart of the European Union," Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters after meeting with financial services representatives and the central bank.

"Whatever happens in the vote, we need to think ... about Paris' strategic positioning as a financial centre," he added His ministry said it would make it easier for non-French companies to sell debt in France, by allowing for issue documentation to be written in European languages other than French and recognising equivalent European accounting norms.

Legal terminology and regulations would also be streamlined and a broader range of ratings agencies would be accepted under the updated rules.

The French short- and medium-term debt market is already the second-biggest in Europe after London, with 300 billion euros (S$459.64 billion) outstanding, according to the ministry.

"A month from the British referendum, the Paris financial sector must prepare for all possibilities," said Gerard Mestrallet, the head of the Europlace French finance lobby.

"Whatever happens, it must draw attention to its qualities to attract international companies," said Mr Mestrallet, who is also chairman of French energy group Engie.

REUTERS