(Bloomberg) --

The French government stands ready to support Electricite de France SA less than a week after hitting the state-controlled utility with vast costs as part of a plan to shelter households from surging energy prices, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

France’s move to force EDF to sell more power at a steep discount, which is expected to a cost the firm almost $9 billion, sent its shares plunging last week and prompted warnings from ratings firms. 

“We stand by this great public company that makes French people proud,” Le Maire said on French radio RMC on Wednesday. “Everyone needs to understand: We will not let it fall and if there are needs we will respond to the needs of EDF.” 

Governments across Europe are struggling to find solutions to the spike in energy prices that will hit households in the coming weeks. France had already attempted to absorb the hit with around 8 billion euros ($9.1 billion) of foregone taxes, but climbing prices made that effort insufficient to meet a government pledge to cap the increase in consumer electricity bills at 4% this year. 

The political pressure is particularly intense in France, where President Emmanuel Macron faces elections in just three months. Yet burdening EDF with extra costs is not a simple option because the company, almost 84% owned by the state, is already struggling with investment needs and costly maintenance programs.

“It was a difficult political choice,” Le Maire said. “As a public company EDF should serve the public.” 

The finance minister declined to give any technical details of how the French state could help EDF. But he pledged further investment in the utility as part of Macron’s plan to build more nuclear plants. He also said the state has in the past contributed to re-capitalizing EDF when it was hit by low energy prices. 

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