France begins privatisation drive to fund innovation
8 September, 2017
France is to sell off state assets to help raise billions of euros to finance innovation, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a radio interview, confirming Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire's declaration that a series of privatisations will be announced in the next few weeks. The government will sell off some state assets, Philippe said, but not necessarily 100% ownership of companies that are currently nationalised.
"In a few weeks' time I am going to announce that we will privatise certain companies to raise money to finance innovation," the economy minister told a business conference in Italy.
During his election campaign, President Emmanuel Macron promised to raise €10bn for a fund to finance innovation, partly from profits from state assets but also possibly from privatisation. Among the companies that are expected to be sold off is the national lottery company, La Francaise des Jeux, which had a €14.3bn turnover in 2016. Despite the privatisation programmes of successive governments, the French state has a controlling interest in 1,600 companies, employing about 1.1m workers, notably in transport, energy and telecommunications. The government has not publicly specified the names of the other companies in which it also plans to sell shares, although Macron has indicated the French state doesn't necessarily need to remain an investor in Orange, the former telecommunications monopoly. Analysts see as possible sales of shares in Renault, airports operator ADP, lottery operator FDJ and other companies.
The sale of a 4.5% stake in the energy company Engie conducted on 5 September raised a little over €1.5bn. The sale reduced the state's holding to 24.1% of Engie's capital.