The French Government has decided to divide the sale of its defence and consumer electronics giant, Thomson SA, into two components following the collapse of the attempt to sell off the entire company in one piece.

The privatisation process will now take place in two distinct phases. Firstly, the Thomson-CSF defence-electronics business will be sold, the Government promising to issue a new call for offers "early next year". The original contenders (Lagardère, which had been selected to acquire the whole group, and Alcatel) have said that they will submit offers.

Secondly, the Thomson Multimedia consumer-electronics component - which requires some Fr10 billion ($2 billion) of recapitalisation - will be sold. It was this element of the Government plan which scuppered the original sale because the Government privatisation committee ruled that the sale to South Korea's Daewoo was "against the national interest".

Details of the Thomson-CSF sale will be revealed "in the coming days", promises the Government, which came under heavy criticism for what some sources called the "gross mismanagement" of the original privatisation plan. Whether the new sale will be limited to French-only concerns remains unclear.

A decision on the Thomson affair is needed urgently by the rest of the European aerospace industry as it attempts to restructure.

Source: Flight International