French government moves towards privatising regional airports

30.9.2010 (IFW – International Freighting Weekly)

by Stuart Todd

The French government is poised to begin opening-up the capital of the companies
operating  4 of the country’s biggest regional airports – Lyon-Saint-Exupéry, Nice-Côte
d’Azur, Toulouse-Blagnac and Bordeaux-Mérignac – in which the state holds a 60%
controlling stake.

The other shareholders in these airports are local authorities (around 15%) and
the public sector-controlled Chambers of Commerce (25%).

While the move comes against a backdrop of budgetary constraint, it also highlights
a more pragmatic outlook on the part of the French authorities to increase the
role of the private sector in the development of regional airports,

The four airports in question handled more than 100,000 tonnes of flown air freight
and mail last year, as well as unspecified volumes of trucked cargo. They are
each served by the major express distribution operators.

However, it is doubtful whether an influx of private investment into French regional
airports will have a significant impact on driving freight traffic growth.

Almost 90% of the country’s global volumes is handled at the Paris airports and
there have been numerous – failed – attempts over the past couple of decades to
de-centralise traffic away from the French capital; all-cargo gateways Vatry and
Châteauroux being the obvious examples.

While the state has made a commitment to retain a majority stake in Lyon, Nice,
Toulouse and Bordeaux airports until at least 2013, private investors would nevertheless
be able to acquire up to 49% of the capital and thus take on the role of a "hands-on"

As for potential candidates, these could include French construction giant, Vinci,
whose airports unit already manages several small French airports, utilities group
Veolia, Australian investment bank Macquarie and Aéroports de Paris, which runs
Roissy-CDG and Orly airports.

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