French government to sell 50% stake in FDJ

Business News

French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to reduce the government’s corporate holdings is taking shape with details set to be unveiled next month on the sale of a stake in lottery operator FDJ.

The government will present a privatization plan May 16 that will also include Aeroports de Paris, an airport operator, and former gas monopoly Engie SA, Le Journal du Dimanche reported on Sunday, without saying where it got the information. The state is considering listing about 50 percent of the shares in FDJ, previously known as Francaise des Jeux, while retaining a minority stake and selling another to a private anchor investor, according to the newspaper.

A representative of FDJ declined to comment. A spokesman for Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire could not be reached for immediate comment.

Macron, a former investment banker, was elected about a year ago on pledges to reform France’s economy. The nation is unusual among big western European countries in that it has a broad portfolio of stakes in publicly traded companies, such as Orange SA and Electricite de France SA, in addition to closely held businesses such as military shipbuilder DCNS and FDJ.

While the details of the stake sale in the lottery operator haven’t been finalized, the government is planning to retain a monopoly over lotteries to preserve the value of the company, keep a handle on gaming in the country and continue to reap tax benefits, JDD reported.

FDJ is among the world’s biggest lottery groups and its tickets and scratch cards can be bought at tobacco outlets across France. The company pays more than 3 billion euros each year to the state.

The French state has just over a 50 percent stake in ADP, which operates the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports serving Paris along with other hubs around the world. Toll road operator Vinci SA, which owns 8 percent of ADP, was weighing an offer for a controlling stake in ADP, people familiar with the matter said in June last year.

Engie, the former French gas monopoly in which the state still has 24 percent, can live without state ownership should France decide to sell, Chief Executive Officer Isabelle Kocher has said. The government cut its stake twice last year.