The French government announced it had reached a preliminary deal clearing the way for Fincantieri, Italy to acquire a 48% stake in shipbuilder STX France, as Italian buyers are aiming to take control of the company.
The firm is being sold off following the collapse of South Korea's STX shipbuilding group, but Fincantieri's bid had raised fears for French jobs at STX's site in Saint-Nazaire, on the Atlantic Coast, as well as for French interests.
France, which will retain its 33% stake in STX, had at one point contemplated nationalising the firm and was reluctant to allow Fincantieri alone to hold more than 50% of the company.
Italy's 230-year-old Fincantieri had agreed to protect jobs and investment in France as part of the deal, French Industry Minister Christophe Sirugue told a news conference.
A privately-held Italian banking foundation, Fondazione CRT, will also take a stake of around 7% in STX France, while French military shipbuilder DCNS will have around 12% and a spot on the board.
"We're still in discussions with Fincantieri but we've got through the toughest stage," Sirugue said.
STX France, which has about 2,400 permanent workers at Saint-Nazaire, specialises in building cruise ships and also makes military vessels.
France has asked for a veto over the next 20 years on any move to shift a "substantial" part of operations at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard outside the country. It also demanded that Fincantieri retain a minority position for at least eight years.