France begins €10bn privatisation plan with Engie disposal

Airport operator ADP and telecoms firm Orange have also been slated for possible government sell-offs.

The French government has kickstarted a €10 billion privatisation programme with the sale of a 4.5 percent interest in electric utility Engie.

The placement of the stake with institutional investors at a price of €13.80 per share has reaped the state €1.5 billion, although the government remains Engie’s largest shareholder, with about 27 percent of the company.

Bruno Le Maire, minister of the economy and finance, said the government remains committed to Engie, currently in the midst of a three-year, €14 billion capital expenditure plan which began in 2016.

“This asset disposal is fully in line with the government’s policy of more actively managing government holdings to use these resources where they are most needed, preserving the influence that the state exercises within Engie,” he said.

French airport operator Aéroports de Paris, which is 50.6 percent owned by the state, has been heavily touted as one of the next assets to be further privatised. The group owns and operates airports in France and around the world, including in Belgium, Turkey and Chile. President Emmanuel Macron was minister of the economy when France began a sale of stakes in Lyon and Nice airport concessions in 2015, deals that eventually completed last November for a total of €1.7 billion.

The government’s 13.4 percent stake in telecoms firm Orange is also reported to be under consideration for a sale.

Proceeds from the Engie deal and future privatisations will be held by state investment agency APE and ploughed into an innovation fund to address energy, environmental and digital societal challenges.