France completes €1.7bn double airport sale

The French government has sold off majority stakes in Lyon and Nice airports to two consortia comprising a handful of domestic and European players.

France has completed the sales of 60 percent stakes in the concessionaires of Lyon and Nice airports, reaping €1.7 billion in the process.

Atlantia, EDF Invest and Aeroporti de Roma paid €1.2 billion to buy 60 percent of Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur, the owner and operator of the Nice, Cannes and Saint Tropez airports, from the French government.

The consortium, which is 65 percent owned by Atlantia, 25 percent by EDF Invest with the remaining 10 percent held by Aeroporti de Roma, purchased a further four percent from the Department of Alpes-Maritimes.

The acquisition was backed by a five-year, €653 million debt facility from Italian banks Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Unicredit, Banca IMI and MPS Capital Services plus Japanese group MUFG. The debt is rated Baa3 by Moody’s, with the consortium’s operating company rated Baa2.

Nice is France’s third-largest airport. It saw 12 million passengers through its doors last year and posted a 3.4 percent traffic increase between January and September 2016. The airport’s operator recorded EBITDA of €98 million in 2015. The Nice Airport concession runs until 2044.

“The transaction marks another major step towards delivering on Atlantia’s internationalisation strategy and is a perfect fit with our plan to grow our involvement in airports with a global reach,” said Giovanni Castellucci, chief executive of Atlantia.

Meanwhile, Vinci Airports, Caisse des Dépôts and Crédit Agricole Assurances completed their acquisition of 60 percent of Aéroports de Lyon, the concessionaire of two airports in France’s third-largest city, in a deal worth €535 million. The concession runs until 2047.

Vinci said it hopes to grow the two sites’ traffic from 8.7 million passengers last year to more than 15 million by 2032. The deal brings the number of airports Vinci operates around the world to 36.

Both transactions are part of a privatisation programme undertaken by the French state to help it reduce its budget deficit. France sold 49.9 percent of Toulouse Blagnac Airport in 2014 to a Chinese-led consortium for €308 million.