France to sell half-share in Toulouse airport to China
The French government announced on Thursday that it has decided to sell a 49.99 per cent stake in Toulouse airport to a Chinese consortium, made up of Chinese state-owned group Shandong Hi-Speed Group and Hong Kong-based investment firm Friedmann Pacific Asset Management.
"The airport is not being privatised," French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told regional daily La Dépêche du Midi in reply to unease sparked by the announcement. "The state along with local authorities will still be majority owners with 50.01 per cent stake."
The sale of a 308-million-euro stake in the company that manages Toulouse airport is part of the government's efforts to reduce the French debt.
But politicians from left and right have expressed concern.
"Airports must remain public," said Marie-Noelle Lienemann, an MP from President François Hollande's Socialist Party.
"Macron thinks he is in Greece where the government sold ports to the Chinese to reduce deficits which continued to increase," she added.
"Our own irresponsibility in handling the debt has brought us to this," commented centre-right MP Chantal Jouanno.
The part-privatisation of Toulouse airport - a major French airport - is part of a sell-off of stakes in publicly owned assets by which the Socialist government hopes to earn more than four billion euros to reduce the French deficit.
"We are selling off the country's general interests," said Jean-Louis Chauzy head of the regional council, pointing out that European aerospace company Airbus tests and assembles planes on 100 hectares of Toulouse airport.
The Chinese consortium, Symbiose, has promised to take into account the long-term interests of Airbus.
It aims to increase Toulouse traffic from 7.5 million passengers in 2013 to 18 million in 2030.
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