France Set to Launch Privatization of National Lottery Operator

The French government is set to begin preparations for divestment of the country’s national lottery operator Francaise des Jeux as well as of airport operator Aeroports de Paris SA (ADP) and energy provider Engie SA, local news outlets report. The lottery entity is 72% state-owned.

The sale of the three companies is expected to generate €15 billion for the state. The money is planned to be used for setting up and bulking a government fund for innovation and investment in various industrial projects. The establishment of the innovation fund was part of French President Emanuel Macron’s election pledges. The country’s top official was elected last spring over National Rally (formerly National Front) leader Marine Le Pen.

The privatization of Francaise des Jeux and the other two companies cannot begin before the government passes a special bill on the matter. The piece of legislation would clear the way for the sale of ADP and Engie by annulling a requirement under which the state should hold more than a 50% stake in ADP and one-third of Engie’s total voting rights. Here it is important to note that the companies are both listed in Paris.

As for the lottery operator, it is not listed, but its privatization will require the creation of a new regulatory body that will oversee the divestment as well as lottery operations conducted in France after the privatization.

The legislative piece was introduced to the government on Monday, as confirmed by officials late last night. However, it will not be before the end of the summer holidays that it will be reviewed and voted on.

Record Sales amid Privatization Preparations

Francaise des Jeux has recorded particularly strong performance and increasing sales over the past several years. Sales totaled €15.1 billion last year, up 5.7% from 2016 to confirm the operator’s health ahead of its now inevitable privatization.

The state-run entity sells scratchcards and other lottery products and also runs online lottery and betting operations. Scratchcards generated sales of €7.4 billion last year, up 8% from the previous year. Other lottery products added €5.2 billion to the whole, representing a 5.2% increase from a year earlier. Sports betting contributed the amount of €2.5 billion last year, up 0.3%.

Here it is important to point out that Francaise des Jeux is Europe’s second largest lottery operator, with Italy’s Lottomatica being the only one ahead.

According to previous reports from local media outlets, Francaise des Jeux is not likely to be taken public before 2019. It is believed that the state would sell around 50% of the lottery operator to reduce its stake in it to just 22%.

As stated by analysts, a €15-plus-billion sale of Francaise des Jeux, ADP, and Engie will represent the largest divestment wave initiated by the French state since 2004-2007 when it sold shares in the country’s former phone monopoly and launched IPOs of a major electric utility company and a gas company.

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