Monday, April 24, 2017

Macron Wins French Executives' Backing in Contest Versus Le Pen
by Phil Serafino
April 24, 2017, 6:16 AM EDT

Former economy minister supports EU, easing of labor laws
Stocks rise the most since 2015 as polls show Le Pen losing

French executives began rallying behind Emmanuel Macron, saying the former investment banker will be a more business-friendly president than Marine Le Pen by preserving the country’s place in the European Union and easing the tax and paperwork burden on companies.

Macron’s victory in Sunday’s first round of voting lifted stocks, the euro and French bonds as investors bet he will beat Le Pen, who leads the far-right National Front party, in the May 7 runoff. The CAC 40 index jumped the most since August 2015, led by building-materials supplier Cie. de Saint-Gobain SA, construction company Vinci SA and telecommunications operator Orange.

The election sets up a stark choice between the pro-free trade, pro-EU views of Macron, an independent and former economy minister, and the anti-euro, anti-immigrant Le Pen. Many executives say they can’t support Le Pen because of her pledge to hold a referendum on France’s membership in the EU and impose import duties.

“Macron’s commitment to Europe is definitely stronger and good for business,” said Eric Meyer, a managing director and head of France at RBC Capital Markets. “That has been a strong component of the campaign, and someone who assumes and endorses their commitment to Europe is, from a business perspective, reassuring.”

Backing Innovation

Macron proposes reducing the corporate tax rate to the European average of 25 percent from 33 percent, exempting stock holdings from the wealth tax and easing the social charges that companies face when hiring low-skilled employees. Le Pen has called for a surtax on companies that hire non-French workers, the imposition of import duties and a withdrawal from free-trade pacts, including the EU.

Le Pen’s backers are already trying to turn Macron’s background in business against him, with Florian Philippot, a National Front official, describing the former banker as a “candidate of oligarchs” and banking lobbies.

Macron, a fluent English speaker who’s making his first run for public office, built a track record of support for French startups in technology, traveling to Las Vegas in 2015 to promote the country’s entrepreneurs at the Consumer Electronics Show.

“We are very optimistic,” said Maryvonne Hiance, chairwoman of France Biotech. “I think he understands that the research in France in health care and biotech is very strong. He has very good positions regarding innovation and new technology and also health.”

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