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GDF Suez Executive Defends Profit Distribution

THURY-SOUS-CLERMONT, France (AP) ¿ GDF Suez deputy chief executive Jean-Francois Cirelli Friday defended the manner in which the French electricity and natural gas utility shares out its profits, after his 180-percent salary increase re-ignited the debate over executive compensation in France.

Cirelli's salary soared to euro1.3 million last year from euro460,000 in 2007, following the merger of Gaz de France with Suez. Cirelli had been chief executive of state-controlled GDF and became deputy CEO of the much larger GDF Suez following the merger. The French government remains the group's largest shareholder with 35.7 percent.

"If you look at how the value created by the company is divided, you'll see that in the 2008 earnings, 11 billion went to employees, 11 billion went for investment and 5 billion went to shareholders," Cirelli told reporters at a company seminar.

"It seems to me that GDF Suez's division of the value created by company is very reasonable," Cirelli said.

Asked whether the debate over his raise was justified, Cirelli said "Everyone can have an opinion, I don't want to get into it."

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