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July 23, 2013

The Sovereign met the editors-in-chief of the Principality’s press

 Picture : The Sovereign met the editors-in-chief of the Principality’s press

Interview in Monaco-Matin

How do you interpret SBM's latest financial results?
The situation remains a concern; the last fiscal year shows a considerable deficit despite good results in the hotel and restaurant sectors and rental housing.
For online gaming, the activity at the start of the year is encouraging.
"Gaming" activity must be relaunched. A new director was hired and we must leave him time over the summer season to get to know the staff and propose his ideas.
The company must be able to reduced structural costs before considering a return to profitability. It is indispensable for well-designed measures to be implemented rapidly to this end. I dare hope there is awareness that our environment has changed and that everyone will have to contribute to these efforts on all levels.
SBM will continue pursuing its social mission but in conditions adapted to this new environment.
We could not claim to undertake radical change in a few months, but it is inevitable to guarantee the company's continuity. Slowing down this process would go against this goal. My government is perfectly aware of this and will play its role in facilitating implementation of these reforms.

It there is no improvement, is the social pact in danger?
I am convinced the SBM has all the resources, capacity and know-how to begin its recovery. The social pact will not be called into question.

A State-owned company listed on the Stock Exchange: how can this dualism be handled?
We don't think in those terms. SBM must return to profitability for its continuity, development and social role. As I said before, our environment has changed and effective governance requires appropriate ambitious management measures.

How will the works on Place du Casino estimated at 620 to 680 million euros be funded?
The SBM press release refers to an increase in capital. This option received my approval, since I feel it offers many advantages. It is part of a broader project entailing recourse to debt to cover all funding needs.

Will the Monegasque government remain the majority shareholder?
It is out of the question for the State to fall below 55/56% of shares.

There is talk of Dmitry Rybolovlev or Bernard Arnault buying into SBM...
Several investors have expressed interest in buying shares in the company. It may not be possible to satisfy them all.

So, has the future of the Sporting Club been set aside once and for all.
This is something that has been going around for several years. We tried to look into other solutions. I am very sensitive to the arguments of those who would like to preserve the building. However, architectural and historical studies have revealed that the building is not really emblematic of the Art-Deco style of the architect Charles Letrosne who designed it. Furthermore, it is beginning to show signs of fatigue. The project selected will include reconstructing Salle des Beaux-Arts as it was with the original decorative elements.

What do you think of the construction project for several buildings 7 to 11 storeys tall by Sir Richard Rogers to replace the Sporting Club?
I can assure you it is the project with the least impact; others were far more avant-garde.

What more can you say about the extension into the sea?
Today is very important since it is the deadline for filing applications. The government will scrutinise the different proposals. We need to extend the greenway which starts from the Casino Gardens. This is indispensable to preserve the environment. I hope to make a decision soon. The project must have been selected by the end of this year.

Is the economic crisis complicating the financial backing for the extension into the sea?
The new land extension project has taken this parameter into consideration. This is one of the reasons why I limited its surface area to a maximum of 6 hectares.

Very tall buildings have already been built, are under construction or planned. Can it be said that Monaco's architectural future is vertical?
We cannot assert that the concept of high-rise buildings will be the rule for the future. We must find the right balance for each neighbourhood. It does not mean that the Odeon or Simona projects will be generalised. I strove to set limits to the height of a certain number of buildings. All projects are examined, however, but I wish to privilege architectural excellence with the construction of emblematic buildings.

Can the effects of the economic crisis be felt in Monaco?
We must remain vigilant even though our economic activity remains steady. The Eurozone crisis had an impact on the Principality but we are resisting with results in compliance with our forecasts.

Is budgetary balance the rule?
This objective was reached in 2012. It must be maintained in the future. The information I have suggests that this will be the case again in 2013. It is a factor for stability in our country.

What is the budgetary strategy for the coming years?
Budgetary balance above all. But also a determined investment policy to enable the construction sector in particular to benefit from expansion and new dynamics.

What is the situation with respect to the dispute between the Monegasque soccer club ASM and the French Football Federation?
We are all working in a constructive spirit to find a viable solution. I believe we will find a positive outcome for the Club. The Council of State will come to a decision in a few months. I can say nothing more on this sensitive topic which is currently being examined by a French jurisdiction.

And what about sporting results?
I am obviously very pleased at the clear determination to build up a competitive team. But the truth always comes from the field. For the time being, there is still progress to be made. It is not inconceivable for us to reach the top four in the Championship.

How do you see the Venice Commission's opinion? Can it be envisaged for Monaco to leave the Council of Europe if the Parliamentary Assembly asks for a reform of Monegasque institutions in October?
This opinion caused quite a stir. I feel things have to calm down. We can recall that the Venice Commission's opinion is consultative. The Principality undertook Constitutional reforms in 2002, some of which, at the request of the Council of Europe, bore witness to our will to find our place there. Were there to be new demands, they would have to be examined, but they should not put into question our specificities, the institutional system which guarantees our stability, our economic prosperity or our social model. At present, we have no plans to leave the Council of Europe.

What are the priorities for housing for the Monegasque people?
My government, in consultation with the National Council, has always been very attentive to this issue. Taking into account future projects, studies have shown that needs will be covered over the next ten years thanks also to optimised management of existing facilities.

The Principality will be appointed to the Vice presidency of the United National General Assembly: a fine showcase for Monaco...
I will be in New York from 22 to 25 September. This will be the second time the Principality will fill the Vice Presidency of the General Assembly, fourteen years after having done so for the 54th Session, in 1999-2000. This exercise will also be particularly significant for the Principality which will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of its admission to the United Nations this year. The 68th Session, chaired by John Ashe, permanent representative of Antigua and Barbuda, will be of special importance given the twofold challenge to the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals and preparation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. In this context, I will be participating in several colloquia and sessions organised on 23, 24 and 25 September.

You are also planning an official trip to Russia for autumn.
I will be there from 3 to 8 October. Political and economic issues will be preponderant. Cultural matters will also be highlighted with a performance by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. I will be accompanied by a large CDE (Chamber of Economic Development) delegation with over 50 business representatives.

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