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France - Business

Shares in French lottery operator off to winning start on market launch

Every one a winner: the French government has already reaped two billion euros from the FDJ sale.
Every one a winner: the French government has already reaped two billion euros from the FDJ sale. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Illustration

Investors have heavily backed the market debut of shares in France's state-owned lottery monopoly, with eager buyers pushing the stock up more than 15 percent in the opening minutes of trading.

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The government reaped some two billion euros from selling a 52 percent stake in Française des Jeux (FDJ), whose scratchcards and lotteries are played by millions.

One-third of shares were reserved for individual investors, who snapped up a chance to own part of a company that will maintain its lottery monopoly for the next 25 years.

The government is hoping a successful public offering will help entice wary investors back to the stock market, and build support for President Emmanuel Macron's reform drive to bolster economic growth.

An immense popular success

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who rang the opening bell at the Paris Stock Exchange to mark the occasion, hailed "an immense popular success".

Investor demand prompted the government to set the IPO price at 19.90 euros, the high end of the range predicted by analysts.

In the first thirty minutes of trading, the shares had climbed 16 percent, to 22.60 euros.

Individual investors were given a two percent discount from the IPO price and will be given a free share for every 10 bought, provided they hold onto them for at least 18 months.

Française des Jeux is the second-biggest betting company in Europe and the fourth in the world.

After the FDJ share sale, the government plans to privatise Aéroports de Paris, which runs the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, and the authorities also hope to sell shares in the natural gas and electricity utility Engie.

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