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France eyes Paris airport, lottery sell-off

The ADP runs Charles de Gaulle, Paris's main airport
AFP

Paris (AFP) – The French government signalled Thursday it intends to sell part of its stakes in the Paris airport operator and national lottery firm as business-friendly President Emmanuel Macron seeks to bring in cash to state coffers.

But while the government has decided to reduce its stakes in Aeroports de Paris (ADP) and the Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) lottery, it has yet to confirm how much will be sold off.

The French state currently holds 50.6 percent of ADP, which owns and operates the capital’s Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget airports, and 72 percent of FDJ.

“We are considering opening up FDJ’s capital,” Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin on SUD Radio, in the first official acknowledgement that the government is planning such a move.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said the government was “seeking the necessary legislative authorisation to sell a certain number of our assets”.

He did not name the lottery and airport operators, but only four public companies would require such a parliamentary go-ahead due to laws requiring the state to hold a specified minimum stake.

These are ADP, FDJ and energy firms EDF and Engie.

The government has repeatedly ruled out reducing its stake in EDF, considering the energy provider a “strategic” asset, leaving only the other three.

A source close to the discussions said the government had “decided to privatise” the ADP and FDJ long ago, but had yet to decide how much of its stakes to cede.

But it is seeking to modify legislation forcing it to keep specified minimum stakes, which would allow its share of the assets “to fall below the 50 percent bar”, the source added.

Macron, a former investment banker, has been eyeing possible privatisations to balance a budget that balances tax cuts for companies and households with a promise to bring down the deficit.

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