PARIS Now that the French government has acquired another 2.85-percent stake in STMicroelectronics NV, a question is being raised: will France try to oust Carlo Bozotti, chairman and CEO of ST, and ask for a French person to take the lead? No, insisted ST's supervisory board in a statement.
But, as when a football club chairman gives backing to the team manager, or a politician gives full support to a colleague, doubts remain.
"Following the speculations that have appeared in the media concerning possible changes in the highest levels of the top management of STMicroelectronics, the supervisory board of the company states that these are without foundation," ST said in a statement issued Tuesday (March 4, 2008).
This follows a report in French magazine L’Usine Nouvelle that Thierry Breton, ex-French Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industry (2005 to 2007), might succeed to the position of chairman and CEO of ST. The magazine indeed stated that Thierry Breton could "soon" dethrone Carlo Bozotti and that a board meeting could "soon" take place to ratify his appointment.
Thierry Breton was the chairman and CEO of French electronic equipment company Thomson SA from 1997 to 2002 and of France Télécom from 2002 to 2005. He has also served on the boards of directors of companies such as Schneider Electric, Orange SA, Groupe Bull and Bouygues Telecom. He joined Harvard Business School as a professor of management.
ST's management team is now composed of 12 members, including at least five Italian citizens and only three French citizens. After France's acquisition of shares a board-level shuffle might be expected to rebalance the representation of shareholders.
France's recent moves to support local manufacturing appear to be in line with a different strategy to that pursued by Carlo Bozotti during his tenure in the top job at ST. Bozotti has clearly stated the intention to move ST towards a fab-lite model, in which less manufacturing is done internally and more is sent to foundries. For instance, in an analyst conference in the fall of 2007, Bozotti declared: "In 2008, and at that time the company will be without the Flash Memory Group, we will move progressively to a level of outsourcing 15 to 20 percent. At the end of next year or at the beginning of 2009, we will be at about 20 percent."
The fab-lite strategy goes against the interest of shareholding states which intend to maintain jobs on their soil and foster R&D activities in the field of nanoelectronics. Two facts tend to support the idea that France intends to take ST’s strategy in hand.