World Economy

France to Sell 50% Airport Share to China

France to Sell 50% Airport Share to ChinaFrance to Sell 50% Airport Share to China

The French government announced that it has decided to sell a 49.99 percent stake in Toulouse airport to a Chinese consortium, made up of Chinese state-owned group Shandong Hi-Speed Group and Hong Kong-based investment firm Friedmann Pacific Asset Management.

“The airport is not being privatized,” French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said in reply to some unease sparked by the announcement. “The state along with local authorities will still be majority owners with 50.01 per cent stake,” RFI reported Saturday.

The sale of a 308-million-euro ($378.4m) stake in the company that manages Toulouse airport is part of the government’s efforts to reduce the French debt.

But politicians from left and right have expressed concern.

“Airports must remain public,” said Marie-Noelle Lienemann, an MP from President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party.

“Macron thinks he is in Greece where the government sold ports to the Chinese to reduce deficits which continued to increase,” she added.

“Our own irresponsibility in handling the debt has brought us to this,” commented center-right MP Chantal Jouanno.

The part-privatization of Toulouse airport – a major French airport – is part of a sell-off of stakes in publicly owned assets by which the Socialist government hopes to earn more than four billion euros to reduce the French deficit.

“We are selling off the country’s general interests,” said Jean-Louis Chauzy head of the regional council, pointing out that European aerospace company Airbus tests and assembles planes on 100 hectares of Toulouse airport.

The Chinese consortium, Symbiose, has promised to take into account the long-term interests of Airbus.

It aims to increase Toulouse traffic from 7.5 million passengers in 2013 to 18 million in 2030.