Credit Agricole buys into GDF wind

French finance giant Credit Agricole will buy a 50% stake in a 440MW onshore wind portfolio owned by compatriot utility GDF-Suez, in a deal the two said marks the start of a wider partnership in wind power.

Insurance arm Crédit Agricole Assurances has agreed to buy the half share in Futures Energies Investissement Holding (FEIH), a subsidiary of GDF-Suez.

The utility said the sale will allow it to cut its debt by about €400m ($550m) after completion, scheduled for the first quarter of next year – and help it move forward with plans to expand its total French onshore wind capacity to more than 2GW by 2016 from a current 1.2GW.

A statement said: “This transaction inaugurates an ambitious long-term partnership with the objective of expanding the wind energy asset portfolio of FEIH.”

GDF-Suez will lead development and construction of future wind farms under the FEIH banner, with Credit Agricole Assurances brining its clout as a “top-flight investment partner”.

GDF-Suez is also heavily involved in the development of French offshore wind, as part of a consortium that won development rights in the country’s first offshore tender, and as a bidder in the current second round.