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France's Engie chairman says board needs time to make dividend decision

PARIS, March 27 (Reuters) - The board of French energy group Engie needs more time to decide whether it will scrap its planned dividend for 2019 due to the coronavirus crisis, Chairman Jean-Pierre Clamadieu said on Friday.

A French minister said on Friday the government would ask companies in which it has a stake, which include Engie, not to pay dividends. Trade unions had appealed to the state to back a call for Engie to scrap its planned 2019 dividend.

"The priority is to secure the medium and long-term future of the group. Engie is a very solid group. We are extremely watchful of our liquidity, or the financial resources we can mobilise during this period," Clamadieu told BFM Business

Engie's financial position was "very solid", he said, with close to 16 billion euros ($17.6 billion) of cash available at the end of February.

"Questions around the dividend are good questions. Let's give the board time to absorb all the group's information and make the right decision," he added.

In a letter to the state, which has a 23.6% stake in Engie, the unions urged French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire to vote against Engie's planned dividend payment of 0.80 euros per share for 2019.

($1 = 0.9072 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Edmund Blair)