June 12, 2018 / 5:33 PM / 8 months ago

France prepares legal ground for Engie, airports sale

The logo of French gas and power group Engie is seen on the company tower at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie, near Paris, France. May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government will pave the way with a new company law to sell down its stakes in energy group Engie (ENGIE.PA), Paris airports operator ADP (ADP.PA) and lottery monopoly FDJ, the Finance Ministry said on Tuesday.

The bill to be presented on Monday will lift existing limits on how far the government can reduce its stakes after it becomes law, which is not expected before early 2019, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The government outlined plans last year to sell corporate assets to finance a 10 billion euro (8.8 billion pounds) fund that is supposed to generate income to invest in innovation projects.

It already includes state shares in utility EDF (EDF.PA) and defence group Thales (TCFP.PA) as well as proceeds from the sale last year of shares in Engie and carmaker Renault (RENA.PA).

The new company law will allow the government to reduce its voting rights in Engie to less than 33 percent. Its rights are currently at that limit while its stake now stands at 24.1 percent.

The government will retain a golden share in Engie allowing it to block the sale of any assets that it deems to be a strategic national interest, the ministry said.

The new law will also allow the government to reduce its 50.6 percent stake in ADP to less than 50 percent.

While ADP currently owns its assets outright, it be given a 70-year concession under the new law to operate them and the state will have the right to veto the sale of ADP’s assets, which are primarily real estate.

Lastly, the law will allow the FDJ lottery to be privatised although the finance ministry official said EU law requires governments to retain control over gaming monopolies.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas, Yann Le Guernigou and Myriam Rivet, Editing by Dominique Vidalon

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