French airport stake sales move closer

The French government could begin outlining plans to sell part of its share in four major regional airports ‘in the next few weeks’, a source close to negotiations has told Infrastructure Investor. Contrary to expectations, Nice airport is not one of the four.

The French government, which has a 60 percent stake in Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montpellier and Lyon airports, wants to invite additional investors in to raise cash and create development opportunities. Its plans are set to be unveiled in the next few weeks.

A sale of the government’s stake in Nice airport was also intended to be on the list, but has been put on the backburner as officials have discovered that a new law would have to be drafted to allow a new investor to come on board, a source close to negotiations told Infrastructure Investor.
“No clear decision has been taken yet, except the one to analyse the opportunity to sell part or all of the French state share in the airports. The government should have a clear view on what they want to do in next few weeks,” the source said.

Apart from the state, the other shareholders in the airports are local authorities with 15 per cent and the public sector-controlled Chambers of Commerce which hold 25 percent. The government has said the airports will remain in majority public ownership until 2013.

Leading contenders to buy shares are understood to include French construction giant VINCI, which already manages several smaller airports; utilities group Veolia; investment bank Macquarie; and Aeroports de Paris (ADP), which runs Roissy-CDG and Orly airports.

Macquarie, ADP, VINCI and Veolia all declined to comment on possible involvement when contacted by Infrastructure Investor.

The source added that it was unlikely that the airports would be sold as one package unless one investor made an extremely compelling case to buy into them all.
VINCI in December last year signed a 55-year concession contract for the new €450 million Nantes regional airport, expected to be operating by 2017. In the meantime, the company will run the existing Nantes Atlantique and Saint-Nazaire Montoir airports.

VINCI holds 85 per cent, the Nantes Chamber of Commerce and Industry 10 per cent and the Entreprise de Travaux Publics de l'Ouest 5 percent.