AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (Reuters) - French public-sector lender Caisse des Depots will consider buying a stake in the Aeroports de Paris (ADP) if the state reduces its stake in the airport operator, CDC head Pierre-Rene Lemas said in an interview on Saturday.
The French government has said that it will begin reducing its corporate holdings in the coming months to finance a new fund for investments in innovation.
While it has not said which stakes will be put on the block, industry sources told Reuters last month that the government would likely start its privatisation programme with ADP, in which the state holds a 50.6 percent stake.
“If it’s put up for sale, I’ll have a look at it with interest. It depends on the return on investment, we can’t do it at a loss,” CDC’s Lemas told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of an economic conference in southern France.
ADP operates France’s two biggest airports, Charles de Gaulle in the north of the capital, and Orly in the south.
The CDC unsuccessfully bid in recent years for stakes in the regional airports of southern cities Toulouse and Nice before securing a stake in the eastern city of Lyon as part of a consortium with concessions group Vinci (SGEF.PA).
The state’s objective is to sell 10 billion euros ($11.40 billion) worth of assets for the new fund, which was part of President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign proposals, a finance ministry source said on Friday.
Lemas said that he had proposed that the Bpifrance public investment bank, which is owned 50:50 by the CDC and the state, manage the fund.
A spokesman for the Finance Ministry said that how the fund is set up has yet to be determined.
The CDC was also prepared to support the budget-strained government’s broader investment plans after Macron pledged during the presidential campaign to invest 50 billion euros during his five-year term, Lemas said.
“If the state can mobilise public money either through the budget or some other way, we are willing to mobilise as much in loans and capital,” Lemas said, adding the CDC could finance as much as one billion euros a year through equity investments alone.
Lemas’s future at the head of the CDC is unclear because normally he has to leave in August when he reaches retirement age, though he said he would prefer staying on to complete his mandate ending in 2019.
A spokeswoman for Macron’s office declined to comment on when a decision would be taken about Lemas staying on. Lemas was secretary general of the presidency under Francois Hollande when Macron was the deputy secretary general.
Additional reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Stephen Powell