France set to sell of Paris airports, lottery

The French government is preparing to sell off most of its share in the Paris airports and the lottery to raise funds to modernise the country’s economy.

But the government is also committed to reducing the budget deficit, in accordance to European Union instructions, so it intends to raise the cash by privatization.

Previous governments have already sold off some or all of the state’s stake in companies such as France Telecom, the Crédit Lyonnais bank, Air France, motorway operators and shipyards.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said last week he will seek parliament’s approval to abolish the minimum state holdings in four major companies.

Airports and lottery not strategic

The government has ruled out losing control of two of them, power companies EDF and Engie, because they are deemed “strategic”.

That leaves Paris airports operator Aéroports de Paris (ADP) and La Française des Jeux (FDJ), which runs the national lottery and sells scratch cards.

The government currently holds 72 percent of FDJ and just over 50 percent of ADP.

It could reduce its share in ADP to 25-30 percent and sell much of ADP to construction giant Vinci, which already owns an eight percent stake.

No windfall

The right-wing president of the Ile de France region around Paris, Valérie Pécresse, on Friday called for some of the cash to be invested in transport and infrastructure, citing the rail link to Paris’s airports as an example.

The leader of the Socialist Party’s parliamentary group, Benjamin Griveaux, attacked the plan as a sell-out of the country’s “common heritage” designed to “shift money to those who have no need of it”.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux on Sunday dismissed the idea that a rise in tax income due to better-then-expected GDP would provide a “windfall” that could be invested in social spending.

It will be devoted to clearing the deficit, he said, so that “for our children, the next generation, the debt will not be so big”.