At present the state holds 50.6% of Groupe ADP (formerly Aéroports de Paris) and the sale was a campaign promise of President Macron. There had been doubts over whether it could be achieved as it proved harder than expected to set up.
ADP operates the Paris airports and, unlike France’s other airports, also owns the land on which they sit, making it difficult for the government as it did not want to sell the land. The solution was to create a 70-year “quasi-concession” for the sites.
Thomas Juin, president of the Union des Aéroports Français, representing all 150 French public airports, told Connexion that most in the industry supported the move.
“It is commonly felt it is not the job of the government to run an international firm, and ADP, with market capitalisation of €1.8billion, is an international business.
“At the moment the government is in a tricky legal position too, because it is the regulator, with a heavy responsibility for safety and security at one of the world’s major airports, and also the owner operator. Obviously there can be conflict.”
France already has three privatised airports and the operating companies at Nice, Toulouse and Lyon have long concessions. The Toulouse sale caused a political storm when a Chinese investment consortium bought the 49% controlling stake in 2015.
There are no plans for other privatisations but Mr Juin said that, if it happens, it would be Marseille as it has enough traffic and good infrastructure to attract bids.
In all, the state aims to sell all or some of its stakes in ADP, lottery firm Française des Jeux and energy giant Engie. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire valued its stakes at €15bn, with ADP alone worth €9.5bn.
It will give details in the coming Loi Pacte and said it would invest the proceeds to fund innovation and pay off national debt.
Meanwhile, Nice Airport has brought in a facial recognition system to speed border checks at both departures and arrivals at Terminal 2. It replaces passport control and fingerprint checks as used at Lyon and Marseille and is said to take just 10 seconds.