France to sell airport stake to Chinese

The French government sparked anger on Friday by announcing it was selling half of the Toulouse-Blagnac airport in southwest France, the home of aircraft maker Airbus, to a Chinese-led consortium for a cool €308 million.

The planned 49.99 percent stake sale of the airport, which is France’s fourth largest, comes as the French government is in the midst of selling off up to €10 billion in assets in a bid to fill the country’s near-empty coffers, under pressure from Brussels.

The Symbiose consortium consists of Chinese financial groups Shandong Hi-Speed Group and Friedmann Pacific Asset Management.

After the expected sale, the French government will retain a 10.01 percent stake in the airport which last year saw about 7.5 million passengers pass through its gates.

In an interview with regional newspaper La Dépêche du Midi, France’s Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said: “This is not a privatisation but rather that the capital is being opened up in which local authorities and the government remain main stakeholders with 50.01 of the capital.”

Airbus uses the Toulouse-Blagnac airport to test and assemble its planes.

The Toulouse Blagnac Airport is the biggest in southwestern France and handled more than 7.5m passengers in 2013, generating revenue of €117.4m and net profit of €10.6m.

China’s foreign exchange reserves rose to $3.948 trillion at the end of the first quarter. The figure in 1978 was $167 million, and in November 1996 it surpassed $100 billion for the first time. The change has been amazing.