A New Wave of French Airport Privatization
On March 10, 2016, the French government launched the privatization process of the airports of Nice Côte d'Azur (2014 turnover: €231.6 million) and Lyon Saint-Exupéry (2014 turnover: €158.4 million). The French State is entitled to sell the 60 percent share that it owns in those airport companies by virtue of article 191 of Law #2015-990, dated August 6, 2015. The other shareholders are the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry (25 percent) and local authorities (15 percent).
The bidders must come forward before March 24, 2016, and the selected candidates must present their first indicative offers before April 28, 2016 (Nice) or May 12, 2016 (Lyon). The government will consult the local authorities (regions), and the selected candidates must submit their best and final offers before June 20, 2016 (Nice) or July 7, 2016 (Lyon).
The tender specifications are available (in French) on the French State Investments Agency (Agence des Participations de l'Etat) website, respectively under Côte d'Azur (Nice) Airport (closing expected before October 13, 2016) and Lyon airport (closing expected before October 27, 2016).
The selection criteria will be the subject of intense scrutiny: concerns have arisen since the awarding of the State stake in the Toulouse airport to a Chinese consortium that offered the best price and eliminated the traditional operators. Bidders must now provide evidence of their previous experience in managing airports, which means that financial investors must join a consortium led by a company that has the relevant track record. However, the main criteria should remain the financial interests of the French State. The Nice Côte d'Azur airport is valued at approximately €1.5 billion and the Lyon Saint-Exupéry airport at approximately €900 million.
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 The French Republic privatized the airport of Toulouse-Blagnac by the Decree # 2014-795 dated July 11, 2014 and the ministerial Order dated March 20, 2015. The State sold 49.9 percent of its shares in the airport company for a total of €341,292,805 to CASIL (China Airport Synergy Investment Limited), a company owned by a Chinese consortium comprising Shandong Hi-Speed Group and Friedmann Pacific AM. The ministerial order dated April 15, 2015 also provides that the French State has a put option for its remaining 10.01 percent of the shares in the airport company. Nevertheless, the government said it was not its intention to exercise this option.