Fate of SeaFrance in balance after Sarkozy U-turn – AFP

The fate of ailing cross-Channel ferry business SeaFrance hung in the balance Tuesday after a court delayed its ruling on a worker cooperative's last-ditch rescue bid after a...

The fate of ailing cross-Channel ferry business SeaFrance hung in the balance Tuesday after a court delayed its ruling on a worker cooperative’s last-ditch rescue bid after a surprise government U-turn.

The Paris commercial court postponed its decision on the CFDT union-backed takeover bid, the last one on the table to rescue the firm, until January 9, after right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday decided to back the bid.

With unemployment threatening to rise above 10 percent of the workforce four months ahead of a presidential election, the unpopular Sarkozy has made preserving jobs a priority of his as-yet unannounced bid for another mandate.

Sarkozy held a meeting with key ministers on Monday and backed the cooperative — known as Scop — to be financed by “exceptional” workers’ lay-off payments from SeaFrance’s parent company, state-owned rail firm SNCF.

The cooperative’s offer is the only one remaining to save the last French business plying the formerly lucrative Dover-Calais route after the Paris commercial court rejected other bids in November.

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