FRANCE'S BIGGEST INSURER POISED FOR PRIVATIZATION

FRANCE'S BIGGEST INSURER POISED FOR PRIVATIZATION

France's biggest insurance group is next on the list to be sold off by the conservative government. And depending on action this week by Swedish insurers Trygg-Hansa SPP and Skandia Group, Renault may not be far behind.

French insurer Union des Assurances de Paris (UAP) will follow oil company Societe Nationale Elf Aquitaine in the privatization sequence, Economy Minister Edmond Alphandery said recently.An Industry Ministry official said Renault would follow Elf.

But the future of Renault's prospective merger with Sweden's Volvo must be resolved first.

Mr. Alphandery said Renault would be privatized when market conditions and ''the company's situation" permit.

The future of the state-owned automaker's merger deal with Sweden's Volvo should become clearer later this week when member companies of Trygg-Hansa SPP - which own nearly 6 percent of Volvo's voting capital - are expected to declare their positions on the deal. Skandia Group of Stockholm owns 3.7 percent of Volvo and is also expected to make a decision this week, according to the London press.

The 7-month-old conservative government of Premier Edouard Balladur aims to raise cash, cut subsidies and stimulate competition by unloading at least 21 state-owned companies. The policy has sparked numerous demonstrations and warning strikes by workers fearing for their jobs, as many of those companies streamline to prepare for privatization.

Renault and UAP are two of only a handful of profitable French state- owned companies. UAP reported a 15 percent increase in net profit, to 1.1 billion French francs ($190 million) in the first half of the year.

The two companies privatized by Premier Balladur so far are Banque Nationale de Paris and Rhone-Poulenc SA. Banque Hervet will be sold next month, but through a negotiated process, not a public share offer.